Highly regarded midfielder Ben Woodburn has made an early return to Liverpool from his frustrating loan spell with Sheffield United.
Woodburn joined the Blades on a season-long deal in August, and exclaimed his delight at the opportunity to test himself in the Championship.
Effectively replacing good friend and Wales team-mate David Brooks, he was widely expected to thrive under Chris Wilder at Bramall Lane, with a key role earmarked for the 19-year-old.
This didn’t transpire, with Woodburn making eight appearances for United in five months and playing the same number of minutes in the English second tier as he did in two outings for the Liverpool U23s in Premier League 2 (154).
His last game for Wilder’s side came with a 10-minute cameo against Nottingham Forest in November, during a three-month period that saw him included in the matchday squad just twice.
And according to Goal‘s Neil Jones, Woodburn is now back in Liverpool and “will not be returning to Yorkshire,” with the Liverpool Echo‘s Paul Gorst adding that the club are “not planning to formally announce” the end of his deal.
The Blades announced his replacement last month as they signed Kieran Dowell on a half-season loan from Everton.
Wilder explained that United “tried to sign Kieran in the summer when David Brooks left,” suggesting Liverpool’s youngest-ever goalscorer was not their first-choice target.
Now returning to Merseyside, Woodburn becomes the second Reds academy player to see their loan cut short this term, following Ovie Ejaria‘s exit from Rangers earlier in December.
Last season, Ryan Kent saw his temporary move to Freiburg terminated in January, highlighting the difficulties in mapping out successful loans.
It remains to be seen whether Woodburn will now join up with Jurgen Klopp‘s first team, head out on another loan or remain at the academy.
But Jones reports that Blackburn, Brentford and Hull have already enquired over a deal for the second half of the season.
Having barely played competitive football for 18 months now, this could be a pivotal month ahead of the Welshman.