It was an impressive campaign for the Liverpool academy on many fronts, but who stood out most for the Reds’ under-23s and under-18s in 2018/19?
The season is yet to conclude for Jurgen Klopp’s first team, and to mirror this Neil Critchley and Barry Lewtas are leading their sides into a series of post-season games.
Along with a pair of friendlies against Club Brugge and a squad climb of Snowdon in aid of the Stephen Darby Foundation, the youngsters will also take part in the Terborg Tournament in the Netherlands.
But while these serve as vital preparation for the future, particularly against sides in Europe, a line can now be drawn under the 2018/19 campaign.
For the U18s, it proved to be a hugely successful one, as evidenced by the FA Youth Cup in the trophy cabinet at Kirkby, along with a second-placed finish in the U18 Premier League.
Critchley’s U23s were left to settle for fourth in Premier League 2’s Division 1, though, and the under-19s dropped out of the UEFA Youth League at the last-16 stage.
So what can we make of a mixed campaign for the club’s youth sides on the whole?
Here, we count down the 10 best Liverpool academy players in 2018/19.
10. George Johnston
Starts (Sub): 30 (0)
Johnston’s season started with a dream outing for the first team in the pre-season friendly against Torino at Anfield, and he has built on this with a fine campaign.
The Scotland youth international missed just one game for the U23s—the 7-0 loss to Villarreal in November—and shone despite operating alongside a revolving-door group of centre-backs.
His no-nonsense approach and finesse on the ball gave Critchley a strong backbone in defence, and Johnston has grown wearing the captain’s armband.
9. Adam Lewis
Starts (Sub): 32 (2)
Considered a potential candidate to replace Alberto Moreno next season, Lewis stepped up to a senior role among a relatively youthful U23s squad and excelled.
Largely fielded at left-back, the 19-year-old showcased his versatility by turning out in midfield and on both flanks too, which should interest Klopp.
Eight assists make him the sixth-most creative player in the academy this season, but Lewis’ highlight was a stunning free-kick against Red Star in November—after rightly demanding ball from Rafa Camacho.
8. Vitezslav Jaros
Starts (Sub): 28 (0)
Clean Sheets: 10
Klopp called Czech goalkeeper Jaros into his squad for first-team training in January, with his inclusion recognition of an excellent second season at Liverpool.
The multi-lingual 17-year-old has gone from strength to strength as a key player for Lewtas’ U18s and U19s, and kept more clean sheets than any other Reds academy stopper in 2018/19.
It could be that Jaros, who boasts great reflexes, speed off his line and a strong command of his penalty area, takes over as first choice for the U23s next term.
7. Yasser Larouci
Starts (Sub): 30 (4)
Lewtas made a savvy decision in converting Larouci from a goal-focused winger to a more well-rounded role at left-back, and it has paid off hugely.
The Algerian benefited from Lewis’ promotion to the U23s and made the starting role his own, and quickly took to his new position, with only three players making more starts for the U18s.
His brilliant outside-of-the-boot strike for the U23s against Hertha Berlin in December was perhaps the best moment of his season, but Larouci’s overall development is the main positive.
6. Jake Cain
Position: Attacking midfielder
Starts (Sub): 28 (2)
Only Bobby Duncan laid on more assists for Liverpool’s academy sides in 2018/19 than Cain, who made the permanent step up from under-16s to U18s look easy.
Familiar with Lewtas’ techniques, the 17-year-old slotted in comfortably from the first game of the season, and his excellent range of passing and eye for a through ball made the young Reds a constant threat.
The Wigan-born midfielder should now aim to add more goals to his game next season, which could be a significant one as he continues his progress.
5. Leighton Clarkson
Position: Central midfielder
Starts (Sub): 27 (8)
Arguably the sleeper hit of the Reds’ academy this season, Clarkson forced his way into Lewtas’ starting lineup early into the campaign and stayed there.
Though able to operate in a variety of roles across the midfield, the teenager was at his best at the base of the midfield, with his long-range passing particularly impressive.
Clarkson showcased his ability from set-pieces throughout, too, most notably with a brilliant free-kick in the 4-3 Merseyside derby victory over Everton in November.
4. Rhys Williams
Starts (Sub): 37 (3)
Like Johnston with the U23s, Williams provided Lewtas with his defensive foundation at U18 and U19 level, drawing comparisons with Virgil van Dijk not merely due to his lofty frame.
Williams is dominant in the air, strong in the tackle, a constructive leader at the back and a composed passer of the ball both long and short.
And similar to Van Dijk, the 18-year-old also made his mark at the other end of the pitch this season, with his 10 direct goal contributions the 10th-most in the academy.
3. Rafa Camacho
Starts (Sub): 22 (0)
Ongoing speculation over his future aside, this was a remarkable campaign for Camacho given the numbers he was able to produce.
As an 18-year-old regularly training away from his academy team-mates, the Portuguese was still able to score 12 and assist 12 in his 22 games for the U23s and U19s.
He was top scorer and assist-maker for both age groups, adding to the accomplishment of a first start and Premier League debut for the seniors in January.
2. Bobby Duncan
Starts (Sub): 33 (10)
Duncan spent the majority of last season on the sidelines at Man City, forced out of action due to a dispute with his then-club as he set his sights on a free transfer to Liverpool.
Steven Gerrard’s cousin certainly made up for lost time in his maiden campaign at his boyhood club, making the most appearances and scoring and creating the most goals of any academy player.
His predatory instinct in the penalty area gave Lewtas’ U18s side a cutting edge, and it would be no surprise to see him move up to the U23s on a permanent basis next season.
1. Paul Glatzel
Starts (Sub): 29 (5)
It seems ridiculous to rank a striker who produced 30 goals and 16 assists in 43 games anywhere below No. 1 in this list, but Glatzel edges Duncan here.
The German-English forward overcame a series of frustrating injuries to take the armband for the U18s, and netted just one fewer goal than his strike partner despite playing nine fewer games.
Glatzel’s all-round game—his movement, his pressing, his close control and his creativity—made him the focal point of Lewtas’ side.
Liverpool have a real star of the future on their hands in the 18-year-old.