Liverpool’s pursuit of major honours has been aided by Jurgen Klopp’s faith and trust in those in the Academy ranks this season.
In the Premier League, there are surely few managers who share the same faith and trust in young players as Jurgen Klopp.
The Liverpool manager’s willingness to introduce the inexperienced into his teams across the last eight years has helped launch the careers of the likes of Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott, while Trent Alexander-Arnold, since his debut in 2016, has gone from Academy fledgling to the club’s vice-captain during a period that has seen him win every top-level trophy in football.
Sunday’s emphatic 4-0 victory at Bournemouth, that saw the Reds extended their Premier League lead to five points, was won with as many as five from the club’s Kirkby Academy featuring with Conor Bradley making his top-flight debut in lieu of the injured Alexander-Arnold.
Jones, who now made 119 senior appearances for Klopp, has become an integral part of the midfield department, while Elliott has steadily grown in seniority since his move from Fulham in 2019 at the age of 16.
The late arrivals of Owen Beck and Kaide Gordon on the south coast might have also been a gentle pointer towards the amount of first-team stars currently sidelined through injury for the Reds but Klopp has never needed an excuse to give young players the opportunities they have craved since their junior days.
The 2-0 win over Arsenal in the FA Cup earlier this month featured as many as 10 academy graduates in the match-day squad and Jarell Quansah has become the latest from the Kirkby ranks to show he can cut it at first-team level having enjoyed an excellent breakout campaign to date.
For Klopp and his assistant Pep Lijnders, it is not bravery on their part to have so much belief in fledglings, simply an insistence that young hopefuls do not let you down when they are needed.
“We have done it for a long time and it is nice for people to see it now,” says Lijnders as he reels off the memorable days for young talents during his time alongside Klopp at Anfield. “Remember there was AC Milan away (in the Champions League), Everton at home in the FA Cup (in 2020) – we have created a lot of careers already for the young guns.”
It is simply about more than putting young players into the team with blind hope they are good enough to thrive at the levels demanded of Liverpool, though. The work performed by Portuguese coach Vitor Matos, the club’s ‘connector’ between the Academy and first-team ranks has been invaluable since he joined in 2019.
The elite-development coach is the bridge between what happens on the Under-18 and U21s pitches and Klopp’s senior ranks and without his regular, detailed input, the boss would not be as tuned into the potential at his fingertips as he is.
The Reds boss wasted little time getting down to the Kirkby base upon his arrival in 2015 to see what was in his junior divisions but the demands of the job make it impossible to keep up to date with the fortunes of the younger sides, which is where Matos and Lijnders become vital.
In recent years, the Academy has become a valuable source of revenue for a club who are not always able to spend the same amounts of money year on year as their more well-heeled rivals when it comes to transfer fees.
As a result, it means players like Neco Williams, Rhian Brewster and Harry Wilson have pocketed the club a tidy profit from their years of development. Wales international Williams was sold for around £17m in 2022 to Nottingham Forest and Wilson netted the Reds £12m when he joined Fulham a year earlier.
It appears remarkable that Liverpool were able to fetch £23.5m from Sheffield United for Brewster nearly four years on but that valuation was agreed after a half-season with Swansea in the Championship, when the striker scored 11 times in 22 games. That same summer, the division’s top scorer, Ollie Watkins, had been sold to Aston Villa by Brentford for £28m, which is how the value for Brewster was largely determined.
Since the summer of 2020, Liverpool have banked close to £85m by selling fringe players like Taiwo Awoniyi (£6.5m), Ryan Kent (£7.5m), Marko Grujic (£13m) and Ovie Ejaria (£3.5m) alongside the aforementioned sales of Wilson, Brewster and Williams. The undisclosed loan sums every summer are also a boost to the pot.
The goal will always be to create players who are capable of becoming stars at Anfield but if those lofty standards are not quite reached by the majority, the work of the coaches across all levels is important to bringing in additional funds. For a club who are run by the self-sustainable model of owners Fenway Sports Group, it is a vital stream of income.
Lijnders adds: “Look at Neco Williams now. Feyenoord asked me ‘what about Neco?’ I said it’s a no-brainer if he does not play [for us]. All these boys have won a lot of games and created a lot of money for us.
“I think – and it works well with the ownership – that because the squad is not as big it creates space for the young ones. It makes a big difference. Senior pros act differently when there are young players – the James Milners, Mo Salah.
“If everyone is 26 and 27 and fighting for the same spot, I tell you that is not a healthy squad. When you have seniors who are responsible for the young ones, and young ones who are happier not to play because they know the 25-year-old will, one of the strengths – and it is a strength of ours – is the togetherness with everyone feeling involved.
“We have a core group of players and the young ones always have a chance to show their strength.”
Liverpool2 months ago
Premier League team risks penalties following Financial Fair Play accusation
Liverpool2 months ago
DERMOT GALLAGHER SHARES WHAT VAR SAID ABOUT MARTIN ODEGAARD’S HANDBALL DURING LIVERPOOL V ARSENAL
Liverpool1 month ago
‘Can’t believe how bad he is’… Roy Keane left stunned by 25-year-old Liverpool player
Liverpool4 weeks ago
Steven Gerrard’s simple response to Jurgen Klopp’s announcement as Liverpool manager to step down
Liverpool1 week ago
Paul Merson sent on-air warning by Sky Sports presenter over title race theory as she says ‘don’t blame us’
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Mo Salah has opened up on how he felt when he heard of Jurgen Klopp decision.
Liverpool3 weeks ago
JUST IN: Great news, the Liverpool architect is returning
Liverpool2 months ago
Premier League make official Liverpool decision after ‘scandalous’ Newcastle United call