With yet another record breaker for Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp may have the most exciting group of players at Anfield that he has ever had at his disposal including his youngsters.
It wasn’t just the victory which will have put a smile on Jürgen Klopp’s face against Aston Villa on Monday night, as Liverpool finally returned to Premier League action. It will also have been the manner of the victory.
Not only did Klopp’s substitution and slight gamble pay off in putting his teenage prospect Stefan Bajčetić onto the field just as Liverpool were under the cosh, but he also had the luxury of giving a debut to 17-year-old Ben Doak after he caught the eye during the mid-season break Liverpool spent in Dubai.
Altogether, in the end, Liverpool finished the game with three teenagers on the field, in the aforementioned duo and Harvey Elliott as well. And there were records broken on the night too. Bajčetić became Liverpool’s third youngest-ever goalscorer in the Premier League, while Doak is now among the top five youngest-ever Liverpool players to have made their debuts in the Premier League.
The most exciting part about that list is that if you extend it to the top 10 youngest-ever players in the league for Liverpool, half of them are in the club’s first-team squad right now and still teenagers.
Bajčetić, Bobby Clark, Doak, Elliott and Kaide Gordon are all on the historic list and that’s quite an astonishing number of players who have emerged in the last two or three years at Liverpool.
It puts Klopp in a unique position as well. He may never have had as many exciting teenagers at the club as he does now, and that’s ideal given that Liverpool are on the brink of a major rebuild in terms of the squad with the current team one of the oldest in the Premier League.
That’s certainly bound to change if Klopp continues to give his talented players a chance and the emergence of his teenage talent should also be a credit to FSG’s strategy pivoting in the aftermath of Brexit.
With the exception of Bajčetić, who was signed last-minute before Brexit rules were introduced, the rest of the quintet are all part of an emerging new policy at Liverpool to pursue homegrown talent at a young age and bring them to the club’s academy to nurture them before gradually promoting them to the first team.
Elliott (Fulham), Clark (Newcastle), Gordon (Derby) and Doak (Celtic) have all been beneficiaries of this transfer policy in the last few years, and Liverpool have continued to pursue similar targets. Players like Trent Kone-Doherty (Derry City) could be the next in line.
The likes of Clark, Bajčetić and Clark also all majorly benefitted from the fact that there was a World Cup break this season. With the exception of Gordon who is still nursing an injury, and four out of Liverpool’s 10 youngest-ever players in the Premier League were able to spend some time training at close quarters with Klopp and Lijnders in Dubai while the World Cup was ongoing in Qatar.
All of the players involved in that tour impressed against Lyon and AC Milan, and they’ve continued that in competitive action with Aston Villa a huge demonstration of the bright future that is ahead of Liverpool.
While it will be difficult to integrate all five of them into the first team, the fact that Klopp has so many talented individuals means, for the first time, he is spoilt for choice when it comes to integrating academy players into the first team, and that’s an exciting prospect for everyone involved.