Liverpool FC: Bright future for Klopp’s kids?
Jurgen Klopp has endeared himself to the Liverpool faithful since arriving on Merseyside and the charismatic manager has been a shining light for the club’s future stars. Harry Wilson became Jurgen Klopp’s nineteenth debutant in fifteen months, twelve of whom were playing for the academy ranks when the German arrived. Impressive.
Klopp’s Anfield project is in full swing, but who will be the next prospect to come through the ranks at Anfield? Find out for yourself with your very own Liverpool tickets from Football Ticket Pad for any of their matches this season at Anfield.
Teenagers like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn have gone on to have breakthrough seasons at the club as they begin to establish themselves in the first team set up at Melwood.
Cameron Brannagan has also been given the chance to shine under Klopp having debuted under Brendan Rodgers. But the 20-year-old has already been described by Klopp as a ‘everything you need’ from a midfielder. Klopp has also given opportunities to the likes of Pedro Chirivella, Kevin Stewart and players like Marko Grujic, who signed from Red Star Belgrade in 2016 to become Klopp’s first signing at the club.
Since making their first team bows, the likes of Danny Ward, Ryan Kent and Chirivella continue to blossom out on loan in the EFL Championship with Huddersfield Town, Barnsley and Go Ahead Eagles in Holland’s Eredivisie respectively. However, it hasn’t been the fairytale ending for some, who have since been sold. Brad Smith moved to Bournemouth for £6 million and Spaniard Sergi Canos swapped Anfield for East Anglia in £4.5 million switch to Norwich City last summer.
Football Ticket Pad takes a look at the academy stars who could be next on the Liverpool production line to make their long-awaited first team appearance under Klopp and be debutant number twenty in the German’s reign. Here are five players who have been catching the eye in the academy setup and Under 23s squad:
Paulo Alves: The Portuguese midfielder comes from the Madeira in Portugal, the same town which Cristiano Ronaldo grew up in. The 19-year-old has got a long way to go if he is to follow in Ronaldo's footsteps, but his progress at Liverpool has been kept under wraps as he continues to impress at the academy in Kirkby in the Under 23s side. Alves signed for the club in 2015 from Portuguese third division side, Sanjoanense and has been pictured training with the first team at Melwood recently. “Little Paul” was an unused substitute for their FA Cup trip to Plymouth in January and is one for the future.
Matthew Virtue: Has been a standout player in the Under 23 squad this season and has excelled in the middle of midfield having based his game on the likes of Jordan Henderson after arriving from Chelsea as an 11 year-old. Competition for places in the middle of the park is rife, but Virtue continues to impress at the academy and scored a impressive hat-trick against Burnley in the Lancashire Senior Cup in November. He has tasted first team training during the international breaks and will be hoping to make the step up on a regular basis in the near future.
Adam Phillips: Looked set to really push on this season and was expected to make the leap to Jurgen Klopp’s first team squad. Sadly, he’s season has been hampered by injuries which has halted his progress. A stress fracture in his back will sideline him until the end of January, but he is an exciting prospect who will be desperate to impress when he regains his fitness. The 19-year-old featured on the clubs pre-season tour of America in 2014-15.
Juanma: The former Barcelona defender joined the club in the summer after a successful trial. Left back has been a problem position for Liverpool in recent seasons and Juanma could be given the green light if the issue is not resolved soon. Juanma has impressed in the club’s Under 23s ranks this season with his solid defending and attacking instinct as he stock continues to rise in English football.
Rhian Brewster: The 17-year-old striker could well be Jurgen Klopp’s next breakthrough talent. The youngster signed from Chelsea two years ago and scored his first goal for the Under 23s in their recent Premier Cup victory at Prenton Park against Ipswich Town in January. Just as Woodburn made the swift rise from U16s to U18s to U23s in 2016, Brewster could be set to follow a similar trajectory, and just like Woodburn, could soon catch Klopp’s attention having already featured for England at u17s level. 2016 was a memorable year for him, but 2017 has the ingredients to be even better.
Klopp and his staff have established a reputation for developing and nurturing young talent and he’s working closely with the Academy staff in a bid to ensure the number of youngsters knocking on the first-team door continues to grow. First-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders plays a vital role in assisting both Jurgen Klopp and his assistant Zeljko Buvac in creating a philosophy and distinct style of play, as well as acting as the connection between the first team and the academy. However, the work of Academy Director Alex Inglethorpe must also not be underestimated and it is certainly no coincidence that 19 players have made the progression into the first team because of his work at the club. Inglethorpe oversees the young stars transition into the first team as they try to make the step up as seamless as possible in creating a situation at the academy which makes the step up to the first-team smaller.
The recent appointment of Steven Gerrard as an Academy Coach has been welcomed and the club legend will offer fresh impetus and give the players across all age groups the boost and confidence needed to make the step into Klopp’s plans. Liverpool fans can expect to see plenty more young faces featuring for their famous club in the future. This is only the beginning under Jurgen Klopp and debut number twenty won’t be too far away. Buy your Liverpool tickets here today!