Following reports linking Jordon Ibe with a move away from Liverpool, a summer departure seems a disappointing outcome for the youngster.
While this is far from conclusive, Ibe’s availability underlines his peripheral stance at Liverpool following the arrival of Jurgen Klopp.
It serves as a surprise juncture when compared to Ibe’s position less than a year ago, but following a troubled campaign, there has been little in terms of outcry following these reports.
But would Liverpool be right to cash in on Ibe this summer? The winger’s fate may be linked with his and his team-mates’ performances in 2015/16.
Jordon Ibe, 2015/16
On as a substitute: 21
Unused substitute: 10
Average TIA Player Rating: 5.98 (out of 10)
Average rating under Klopp: 6.15
On Raheem Sterling’s £49 million to Man City last summer, Ibe was promoted to the rank of poster boy on Merseyside; Liverpool’s brightest young hope, poised for a breakout season in 2015/16.
Though the frustrating end to Sterling’s time at Liverpool soured the memory of his time with the club, and his first campaign with City has been far from an out-and-out success, his three seasons in the Reds’ first team showcased a pre-eminent talent.
Sterling was able to stretch defences with pace, beat defenders one-on-one with skill and combine with the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez to blistering effect.
At exactly one year Ibe’s senior, Sterling was undoubtedly ahead in his development, and despite a summer spent at the club’s Kirkby academy facility under the watchful eyes of Kenny Dalglish and Alex Inglethrope, the young winger was hampered with unnecessary pressure.
Eight months later, however, he was left out of Klopp’s rotated side to take on the Potters.
Over the course of that eight months, Ibe had scored three goals and laid on a further four, and while this included a match-winning performance away to Rubin Kazan in the Europa League and a one-goal, one-assist cameo in December’s 6-1 win over Southampton in the League Cup, his form had unquestionably wavered.
His solo strike in the Reds’ 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion at the end of the season was an unexpected virtue, but 2015/16 was a campaign dogged by inconsistency.
Between the beginning of February and the middle of April, Ibe played just 48 minutes of league football, with question marks over his application in training, along with an unwelcome weight gain, no doubt fuelling Klopp’s end-of-season stance.
Big Changes in 2016/17
Liverpool’s miserable eighth-placed league finish, combined with defeat in the Europa League final, has left Klopp to plan for a 2016/17 campaign without European football.
While this has already proved to be a diminishing factor in the Reds’ summer transfer activity, with Mario Gotze seemingly rejecting a move to Merseyside in favour of fighting for his place at Bayern Munich, the implications on Klopp’s current squad could be more severe.
At a minimum, Liverpool could play just 40 games next season, and while 39 different players featured under Rodgers and Klopp in 2015/16, with 22 making over 10 appearances, there is no longer a need for such squad depth.
Furthermore, with FIFA imposing a change in the Football League’s loan system, scrapping the emergency loan, Klopp will be required to approach the summer transfer market with ruthlessness.
Big decisions will need to be made, with significant outgoings likely, both on permanent transfers and on season-long loans.
The shedding of fringe players such as Ibe, as well as loanees that could have hoped for a return to the first team such as Lazar Markovic and Sergi Canos, is likely a priority for the German.
Should Liverpool Sell Ibe?
Assuming Klopp signs a new winger and the likes of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana continue their regular roles in the starting lineup, plus Ojo continues his rise through the ranks, there are likely to be few opportunities for Ibe in 2016/17.
After making the 10th-most appearances for the club last season, with 41, Ibe could see this drop to around half, with many likely coming from the substitutes’ bench or in cup competition.
Therefore, from Ibe’s perspective cutting ties with the Reds could be beneficial, as a place in the starting lineup at Watford, for example, would be easier to obtain.
The 20-year-old would also be following former academy team-mate Jerome Sinclair to Vicarage Road.
But while it is easy to paint Ibe’s four-goal, four-assist campaign as an abject failure, there were moments of true promise, showcasing the potential that made him a Wycombe regular at the age of 15.
His mature, goalscoring performance in Kazan and his subsequent run of form, averaging a This is Anfield rating of 7.17 over six games, his influential display in April’s 2-1 win away to Bournemouth and his stunning goal at the Hawthorns all point to a top player in the making.
While behind-closed-doors factors may be affecting Liverpool’s stance over Ibe this summer, from a playing perspective it would be more beneficial for the winger simply to leave on loan.
Returning in 2017/18, with a season of first-team football boosting his development, Ibe could rejoin Klopp’s hopefully resurgent Reds to take up a squad role and prove his ability.