Liverpool midfielder Stefan Bajcetic is missing the European under-21s Championships because of injury but has proven a very sage signing.
All eyes are currently on the European under-21 Championships – and for good reason.
No less than five Liverpool transfer targets are all competing in the tournament in Romania and Georgia. Ryan Gravenberch and Micky van de Ven are representing Holland, Khephren Thuram, and Manu Kone are in action for France and Gabri Veiga is on duty for Spain. Indeed, Kopites will be keeping a close eye on the quintet and gauging how they could fit into Jurgen Klopp’s plans.
The Reds also have two of their players, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott, who’re aiming to inspire England to glory.
Indeed, the tournament gives the best young talents across the continent a chance to showcase what they’re all about. During the summer, the under-21 Euros are how football fans sate their appetite as the senior players enjoy a much-needed break.
And with the spotlight being on the fledgling talents, you have to spare a thought for Stefan Bajectic. The Liverpool midfielder was expected to be in the frame to be in Spain’s squad for the tournament after a breakthrough 2022-23 season at Anfield despite only being aged 18.
A breakthrough season is an understatement. Scarcely anyone could have expected the midfielder to make 19 appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s side this time a year ago. No one would have thought he would start a Champions League last-16 clash against Real Madrid on merit and outshine the likes of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, and Naby Keita in other games.
members of the squad who’d been key for the Reds during their trophy-laden spell. An outstanding performance in a 2-1 victory over Wolves in an FA Cup fourth-round replay sparked a run of seven starts in the subsequent 10 games for Bajcetic. In that run, there were magnificent displays in triumphs over Everton and Newcastle United.
When it emerged that he was unavailable for the second leg against Real at the Santiago Bernabeu in March – and it was then revealed he wouldn’t play again for the rest of the season because of an adductor injury – it felt like a hammer blow. He’d been a beacon of light in a floundering engine room. Mo Salah went as far as to say that Bajcetic had been Liverpool’s start performer during his run in the XI.
It was last summer’s pre-season in which Bajcetic first caught the eye. In a 5-0 friendly win over RB Leipzig, his performance off the bench in the second period was excellent. The Reds had only been one goal ahead at the break. Bajcetic’s barnstorming outing and Darwin Nunez’s four goals saw the visitors run amok.
And although Liverpool will be cautious over his recovery, the teenager will head into the upcoming campaign recognized as a bona fide midfield option.
While Alexis Mac Allister has been signed for £35 million from Brighton and at least one more engine-room operator will arrive, Klopp will not forget the maturity and composure of Bajcetic’s outings.
Liverpool paid just £224,000 to sign Bajcetic from Celta Vigo. Manchester United and Real Madrid were also interested but the Reds beat a deadline before a changing of Brexit rules – which saw clubs in England no longer able to sign overseas players until they turn 18 – move to Anfield in December 2020.
Bajcetic’s valuation has since increased manifold. As per CIES Football Observatory, his price tag is now worth more than £17 million while Transfrmarket values him at around £11.2 million. Not that Liverpool will be contemplating a sale, mind you. Bajcetic is very much the future – as well as the present.