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Rhian Brewster primed for great strides at Liverpool after Jurgen Klopp’s show of faith

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Rhian Brewster has committed his future to Liverpool, and with Jurgen Klopp fast-tracking the striker he could enjoy a breakthrough season.

The 18-year-old is set to sign a five-year deal with the Reds to end speculation over a move to the Bundesliga, with RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach both in pursuit.

Though Liverpool had previously extended Brewster’s scholarship by a further year, his imminent first professional contract ties him down for the long term.

Brewster is believed to have opted against a switch to Germany after being convinced of his first-team prospects at Anfield by Klopp.

The manager is due to promote Brewster to his senior squad for 2018/19, and with the futures of a host of strikers up in the air he could be set for a prominent role.

And while the signings of Naby Keita and Fabinho are certainly more high-profile, the teenager’s pledge to stay on Merseyside could prove to be some of the club’s best business this summer.

 

Brewster’s Development

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 22, 2017: Liverpool's Rhian Brewster celebrates scoring the second goal against Ipswich Town with team-mates Alberto Moreno [L] and Ben Woodburn [R] during the FA Premier League Cup match at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Brewster joined Liverpool from Chelsea in 2015, following Michael Beale to Kirkby on the coach’s recommendation and arriving in the same summer as Caoimhin Kelleher, Paulo Alves, Bobby Adekanye and Brooks Lennon.

Though only 15 on his move, he was quickly integrated into Neil Critchley‘s U18s side, and scored his first-ever goal for the young Reds in 3-2 win over West Brom in October of that year.

His debut for the U18s came just two days after Klopp was appointed as Brendan Rodgers’ successor, and the German was in attendance alongside Beale, Peter Krawietz, Pepijn Lijnders and Alex Inglethorpe as he made a late cameo in a 1-0 victory over Stoke City.

Whether he caught Klopp’s eye in that 10-minute outing at the academy or not, the manager alluded to the youngster as a “special kid” in the youth ranks in an interview with the Times in 2017.

Soon after that assessment, Brewster scored on his debut for the U23s, starting alongside the likes of Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, Alberto Moreno, Harry Wilson and Ben Woodburn in a 3-0 mauling of Ipswich Town.

That served as a sign of things to come, as though he continued to divide his time between the U18s and U23s that season he was prepared to step up the following campaign.

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 18, 2017: Liverpool's Rhian Brewster celebrates scoring the third goal during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool and Everton at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Brewster is an exceptionally gifted, natural striker, whose finishing ability has been honed as he finds his feet as a versatile forward suited to Liverpool’s hardworking system.

At his best deployed as a No. 9, Brewster operates in a fluid role, willing to drop deep to aid his team-mates both off the ball and in the buildup, as well as interchanging with his fellow forwards by shifting out wide.

A roll call of his standout goals from last season highlights his all-round quality as a striker, and why Klopp is so convinced of his talent.

Those range from a powerful left-footed blast against the Arsenal U23s in August to a strong run and clipped finish with his right after winning the ball back on the halfway line against the Sunderland U23s in December.

He scored far-post volleys against both the Everton U23s and the Sevilla U19s in November, and an audacious lob on the move against the Tottenham U23s in September.

Brewster even netted a header from inside the six-yard box against Spain at the U17 World Cup, as well as proving his quality from set-pieces with a cool penalty against the USA and a sublime free-kick against Mexico.

He is a multi-talented, modern centre-forward equally adept at tracking back and crafting moves as he is finishing them with his left, right or his head.

 

The Highs & Lows of 2017/18

October 25, 2017 - Kolkata, West Bengal, India - England Rhian Brewster (jersey 9) celebrates England win against Brazil at the FIFA U 17 World Cup India 2017 Semi Final match in Kolkata. Players of England and Brazil in action during the FIFA U 17 World Cup India 2017 Semi Final match on October 25, 2017 in Kolkata. (Credit Image: © Saikat Paul/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire)

Brewster began last season with a bang, recovering from a broken foot to score against Sunderland, Arsenal and Spurs before joining up with Steve Cooper’s England side for the U17 World Cup.

There he netted eight times, including consecutive hat-tricks against the USA in the quarter-finals and Brazil in the semi-finals, and the Young Lions’ opener in the final against Spain.

This secured England their first World Cup at any age level since 1966, with the Liverpool striker beating Mali’s Lassana N’Diaye and Spain’s Abel Ruiz to win the Golden Boot.

By the season’s midway point Brewster had scored 15 goals and laid on 10 assists in 24 games for club and country, with only Wilson, three years his senior, outperforming him for the U23s.

Lijnders had earmarked him long before, including him in his Talent Group at Melwood and prompting his involvement for Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace in the Premier League at the end of 2016/17, and last season saw Brewster further cement his status.

But just one game into the new year and tragedy struck, as he was stretchered off after landing awkwardly in the U23s’ 3-2 defeat to Man City in January.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Friday, January 12, 2018: Liverpool's Rhian Brewster is given oxygen as he is carried off injured during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Academy Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Brewster suffered damaged ankle ligaments that night at City’s Academy Stadium, and underwent an operation that effectively ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.

It later transpired that the youngster had also sustained a knee injury that required further surgery in March, casting aside any hope of a return before the end of the season.

After such an eye-catching six months, Brewster has spent the first half of 2018 in recovery at Melwood—though his presence at the first-team training ground is indicative of his future role.

No doubt in part prompted by the threat of a move away from Liverpool, Klopp made the surprise decision to promote Brewster to the senior setup during his layoff.

But while his contract situation could have proved influential, the manager would have been equally impressed by his prodigious talent and his remarkable maturity, as he proved in a bold interview with the Guardian at the end of 2017.

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2017: Liverpool's Rhian Brewster is restrained by Under-18 manager Steven Gerrard and team-mates after the UEFA Youth League Group E match between Liverpool FC and FC Spartak Moscow at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Brewster recounted seven incidents of racial abuse he had endured on the pitch, and though these were ultimately and unsurprisingly overlooked by UEFA, Klopp was taken by his bravery, as he explained in his speech at the FWA awards in May:

“During the past 12 months Rhian has established himself as one of the most exciting prospects in English football.

[…]

“But it was away from the football pitch—and instead in the pages of a UK newspaper—where Rhian made an even bigger impact on the game we all love and even a significant impact on society.

“Aged just 17 at the time—and at his own behest—albeit with the support of his family and friends—plus the support of the incredible academy staff at Liverpool—he sat and spoke about racism in modern football with the same power, command and composure that he shows when playing.”

Klopp added that it was “as frustrating and depressing as it is inspirational and uplifting” that Brewster was forced to speak out over his experiences.

But as a manager who places great emphasis on the character of a player, this clearly made its mark.

 

What Role Could Brewster Play This Season?

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 18, 2017: Liverpool's Rhian Brewster during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool and Everton at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp’s persistence in convincing Brewster to turn down overtures from Germany to commit his future to Liverpool should serve to highlight his plans for the upcoming campaign.

Unfortunately, the teenager is still working his way back to full fitness after those ankle and knee problems and he isn’t expected to be available for pre-season.

Liverpool are not set to sign another No. 9 in the transfer window, instead relying on Brewster as deputy to Roberto Firmino, likely with two of Divock Origi, Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke supplementing the group.

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 18, 2017: Liverpool's Rhian Brewster celebrates scoring the third goal during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool and Everton at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Of Klopp’s backup options, Brewster certainly has the most potential, and having proved his ability in a pressing system there should be no concerns over his ability to slot in.

Whether he is capable of translating his performances for the U23s, U19s and England’s U17s to the first-team stage remain to be seen.

But Brewster is the perfect fit for Klopp’s fluid unit, and after tying him down for the foreseeable future Liverpool can relish his development in the years to come.

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