Based on last night's brace and performance, you would be forgiven for thinking Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had never been away from the Liverpool first team. But for the Liverpool midfielder, it has been an incredible journey marred by injury and woe, making his return to football even more beautiful.
It has undoubtedly been a tough time for Oxlade-Chamberlain. A strange thing to say given he is a Liverpool player, a team for which life couldn't get much better. But whilst his teammates went on to achieve greatness last year, Ox was forced to watch on from the sidelines.
Let's rewind to the Champions League semi-final - not last year, but the year before. Liverpool faced Roma at Anfield, looking to enter a first European Cup final since 2007. Oxlade-Chamberlain was in frightening form, thoroughly impressing in Liverpool's midfield trio and slowly but surely becoming the prospect that many thought he would be. But, once again for the Englishman, injury reared its ugly head.
Oxlade-Chamberlain missed nearly the entirety of last season as a result, only returning at the back end of the season and not playing any pivotal role in Liverpool's title charge or their Champions League win. The contrast between jubilation for his teammates and heartbreak for knowing he could have been out there must have been unbearable, but will have motivated him to find fitness and reclaim his rightful place in Jurgen Klopp's team.
The midfielder has enjoyed a handful of appearances this season, but he has somewhat looked off the pace, still struggling to get to grips with the speed and intensity of Liverpool's play. That was until Wednesday night.
It took Oxlade-Chamberlain under two minutes to grab his first goal of the evening, his first since the injury, a well-hit strike from outside the box which took a small deflection before nestling in the bottom corner. An early goal, however, did not discourage a youthful and hungry Genk side who rallied on, making life tough for their visitors.
However, the game was all but settled in the second-half, when Oxlade-Chamberlain grabbed his second of the night, a thing of pure beauty and grace. Roberto Firmino did the honours of laying the ball back to him, and instinctively hit the ball with the outside of his right boot, seeing his effort spiral off the underside of the bar and beyond the Genk keeper. Pure ecstasy for the Ox.
While his two goals were sensational, Chamberlain impressed across the pitch, picking up the ball from deep and driving at the heart of the Belgian side's defence. Klopp decided to play both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, and, although this left Liverpool vulnerable at the back, it offered them an outlet in midfield, connecting defence and attack.
This was Oxlade-Chamberlain at his best and he offered something that the Reds have been crying out for all campaign: creativity from the centre of the park. Much has been made of Liverpool's midfielders not being able to support the likes of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, but that wasn't an issue in Belgium. By getting the best out of Oxlade-Chamberlain, it inevitably lifted pressure on Liverpool's front three as well as offering them assistance going forward. After their drab draw with Manchester United, it's just what the doctor ordered.
So what does this mean going forward? Well, it was an incredible re-audition from Oxlade-Chamberlain, but he will now be hoping for the lead role. His midweek performance may have just earned him the right to feature in Liverpool's next match at home game against struggling Tottenham. But while Chamberlain's place is not guaranteed, he is providing Klopp with the perfect solution for his current problem. An easy fix.
However, it's all up to Oxlade-Chamberlain's fitness. If the Englishman can steer clear of bumps and scrapes, then he has a perfect avenue to walk straight into. He can provide Liverpool with something they are yet to find elsewhere and can offer them a much needed spark in midfield.
If Oxlade-Chamberlain can find consistency and continue exhibiting the kind of performance he showcased in the Champions League, then he could be an absolute godsend for the reigning European champions. He could even find himself on the plane for Euro 2020.