BELGRADE, SERBIA - Tuesday, November 6, 2018: Liverpool's substitute Ki-jana Hoever during the UEFA Youth League Group C match between FK Crvena zvezda Under-19's and Liverpool FC Under-19's at ?ukari?ki Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Ki-Jana Hoever: The 16-year-old Dutch starlet in training with Liverpool’s first-team

Liverpool’s injuries in defence have seen 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever training with the first team. But what makes the talented youngster a stand-out?

Hoever was one of the Reds’ less-heralded summer signings, understandably, but the signs are good that he might role in the future as significant as those who Jurgen Klopp spent rather more money on.

The Dutch youth international went straight into the U18s set-up, but he has already featured for U19s, U23s and is now training with the seniors.

That’s a direct result of recent occurrences in Klopp’s squad; Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip joined Joe Gomez on the injury list this week.

Klopp hasn’t been shy about calling on the younger stars at the club, aiding their progress by training with first-team players and giving them the opportunity to impress at close quarters, and it’s Hoever’s own displays which have prompted his call-up.

He has made a great start to life at Liverpool, and this won’t be the last we see of him around the first-team scene.

Indeed, he could get an earlier opportunity than expected if he impresses the manager enough.

ST HELENS, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 24, 2018: Liverpool's substitute Ki-jana Hoever warms-up during the UEFA Youth League Group C match between Liverpool FC and FK Crvena zvezda at Langtree Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Ki-Jana Hoever

Age: 16
Position: Right-back and centre-back
Signed from: Ajax



LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 18, 2018: Liverpool's manager Barry Lewtas during the UEFA Youth League Group C match between Liverpool FC and Paris Saint-Germain at Langtree Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Hoever played initially at the AZ Alkmaar academy, but moved to Ajax in 2014, then aged 12. His formation continued apace with the Dutch side, but he never signed professional terms with them.

Instead, that allowed a move to Melwood to come about this summer and the 16-year-old joined the Reds in mid-August.

Ajax rated him extremely highly and were “devastated” to lose his services, according to the Echo‘s James Pearce, but their loss has already been Liverpool’s gain.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City were all chasing his signature, but the appeal of Liverpool is great, it seems, for Dutch defenders of both the present and the future.

It didn’t take long for Hoever to make an impact.

U18s boss Barry Lewtas highlighted how Hoever has dealt with the move and settled in immediately.

BELGRADE, SERBIA - Tuesday, November 6, 2018: Liverpool's manager Barry Lewtas before the UEFA Youth League Group C match between FK Crvena zvezda Under-19's and Liverpool FC Under-19's at ?ukari?ki Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“We know what qualities he’s got, we know what he came with, and we certainly know the things he’s got to improve on because there are a lot.

“But he’s starting from a good level and he’s done ever so well in terms of dealing with it mentally. He’s only 16 and he’s moving into a dressing room full of young men.

“We are all keeping our feet on the floor with him. He’s still got a lot to do, sometimes you can ride the wave when you first get into teams, but he knows it’s a long process. He’s very mature, he’s a good boy and he knows he’s got lots to improve on.”

Once he was officially signed on having received international clearance by early September, Hoever made his debut for the U18s in a 4-1 win over Newcastle midway through the month.

The following month he made his debut for the U19s, coming on as a sub in the UEFA Youth League win over Red Star, before starting in the same competition against PSG in November.

Last month he also made his bow at U23 level, though this step-up proved a steep learning curve: the 16-year-old was part of an inexperienced Liverpool side hammered 7-0 by a far more experienced Villarreal lineup.

On the international stage, Hoever is part of the Netherlands U17 side; in the recent break he scored three times in three games for them, including a free-kick.

That showing set-piece prowess wasn’t a one-off, either, as his time with Ajax showed.


Early impressions & future

ST HELENS, ENGLAND - Monday, December 10, 2018: Liverpool players line-up for a team group photograph before the UEFA Youth League Group C match between Liverpool FC and SSC Napoli at Langtree Park. Back row L-R: Ki-Jana Hoever, goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros, Rhys Williams, Liam Millar, Rafael Camacho. Front row L-R: Jake Cain, Paul Glatzel, captain Adam Lewis, Liam Coyle, Neco Williams, Curtis Jones.(Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

His rise since signing for Liverpool has been fast. Naturally, coaches aren’t willing to go overboard about good performances from young players—so it’s fair to suggest that when comments are made, it’s because of a particularly noteworthy display.

The U23s won the mini-derby late last month, with Hoever playing the full 90 minutes, and boss Neil Critchley spoke in glowing terms about the teenager’s showing.

“I don’t want to get too carried away with him but, wow, what a performance.

“He’s 16 and he’s calm and assured in his decision-making. He got a little bit tired near the end but understandably so – he played in the week as well.

“His authority and assurance on the pitch for a boy so young was very, very impressive.”

That composure and mentality has been a stand-out feature of his time on the pitch, both in and out of possession, and which gives an inkling as to the type of defender he’ll turn out to be.

Hoever is extremely confident on the ball, which no doubt stems from his formation as a right-back. He moves forward well, is unafraid to rove infield and dictate passes from central areas, but doesn’t shirk his defensive duties.

In the most recent U19 Youth League match against Napoli, he played as the left-sided centre-back, another indication of his impressive awareness.

True, he wasn’t tested a huge amount in the game as a dominant Liverpool side controlled the game from start to finish in a 5-0 win, but he was unflustered against sporadic counter-attacks, covered well when the ball was played in behind full-backs and kept the ball moving from deep.

Playing in that manner, and with his potential trajectory from right-back to centre-back in future, it’s impossible to not look at another Liverpool defender who shares some traits with him.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Liverpool's manager J¸rgen Klopp (R) and Joe Gomez after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. The game ended goal-less. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Gomez had long been seen as an ideal modern centre-back: classy on the ball, confident in possession but defensively resilient. Now, this season, he’s proving that’s the case.

Hoever naturally has many years to go to reach this point, but that isn’t to say he can’t have impact before then, perhaps particularly at right-back.

Current injuries are short-term and fleeting, but in the longer term, it’s undoubtedly a position Klopp will feel needs a new face to offer competition to Alexander-Arnold.

A few seasons back, the Reds were stacked in that position: Nathaniel Clyne first choice, Jon Flanagan making a case, Connor Randall getting surprise opportunities.

None made enough of a lasting impression; one has departed, one is injured and soon out of contract, one is expected to be sold and hasn’t had a significant look-in this season.

Maybe Hoever’s chance will come sooner rather than later.

Hoever’s appearances so far

  • U18s vs. Newcastle, 90 mins, centre-back
  • U19s vs. PSG, 8 mins, right-back
  • U18s vs. Blackburn, 90 mins, centre-back
  • U18s vs. Man City, 15 mins, right-back
  • U18s vs. Wolves, 90 mins, right-back
  • U19s vs. Red Star, 4 mins, wing-back
  • U18s vs. Everton, 90 mins, right-back
  • U19s vs. Red Star, 6 mins, right wing
  • U23s vs. Everton, 90 mins, wing-back
  • U19s vs. PSG, 90 mins, centre-back
  • U19s vs. Napoli, 90 mins, centre-back

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