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Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk applauds Joe Gomez's England recall

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk believes Joe Gomez's England recall is fully deserved as the team's popular utility man continues to impress.

It was not that long ago that speculation was linking the defender with a move away as he dropped down the pecking order at Anfield.

However, this season he has taken over the mantle of the veteran James Milner, who left for Brighton in the summer, in terms of being a reliable performer in a number of positions.

His 40 appearances have come across the back four, with a couple as an emergency holding midfielder, as injuries piled up in February and that versatility is something which appeals to Gareth Southgate, who included him in his squad for the first time since 2020 for next week's friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

"I'm very happy for him. To be honest, me and Ibou (Ibrahima Konate) have been saying for quite a while he definitely shouldn't book any holidays in this international period as he will definitely be in it," said Van Dijk.

"Still, it's been such a long time for him. The work he has put in day in, day out – him and his family – not many people see but he has been outstanding the whole season and I'm delighted.

"Let him get his chance and then he will show he should stay in the squad."

Gomez could be deployed in either full-back position or as Van Dijk's partner for Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

It is a credit to him that his performances have not dropped despite being shifted around the pitch and the fact he is still only 26 means his best years are still ahead of him.

Asked what had changed, Van Dijk added: "Playing more helps, of course, but it's the confidence he plays with as well in any position across the back line and a couple of games as a holding midfielder.

"He's doing great, he's a fantastic player."

Manager Jurgen Klopp trailed Gomez's selection after last weekend's 1-1 draw with Manchester City, when he praised his performance and suggested it was a simple decision for Southgate.

"I don't think my comments had a lot of influence. Wasn't necessary really, Joey deserves it, absolutely," said the Reds boss.

"The season he has played so far is absolutely exceptional. We would not be where we are without Joey. He's played so many different positions. Really happy for him.

"I saw on his face he was very happy about it so it's good news. Now, let's play the (United) game, he can go there, and hopefully comes back healthy and we can play the rest of the season."

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