DERBY, ENGLAND - Friday, March 8, 2019: Liverpool's captain George Johnston leads his side out with goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher before the FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Derby County FC Under-23's and Liverpool FC Under-23's at the Derby County FC Training Centre. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool under-23s captain makes bold step to join Feyenoord

Liverpool under-23s captain George Johnston has joined Feyenoord on a permanent deal, with his route to a first-team role at Anfield increasingly difficult.

Johnston departs after initially signing a new contract with the Reds, having been named among those offered fresh terms back in June.

The 20-year-old spent part of pre-season with the senior squad, playing the second half in the 6-0 thrashing of Tranmere, but reported back to the U23s upon Dejan Lovren‘s return to training.

He then started against The Spartans FC, Hearts, Coventry and Anderlecht, and came off the bench in victory over Marine, as preparations for the Premier League 2 campaign began.

But now, Johnston leaves the armband behind to take up the No. 14 shirt with Eredivisie side Feyenoord, in a deal worth €300,000, including a 30 percent sell-on clause.

This is a bold move by the Scotland youth international, but comes with more opportunities available to young players in the Netherlands.

The agreement comes after Dirk Kuyt, now a youth coach at Feyenoord, contacted his former club to seek a recommendation.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Friday, August 17, 2018: Liverpool's George Johnston during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at Meadow Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Johnston arrived at Liverpool as a nine-year-old, and progressed through the ranks as an accomplished, ball-playing centre-back, whose leadership developed in recent years.

He was given the U23s captaincy following Corey Whelan’s loan switch to Crewe Alexandra last summer, and was praised by Neil Critchley for his consistency back in March.

“George has been outstanding for us. His best trait is his consistency, he is a joy to work with,” the U23s manager said.

“I gave George the captaincy because we wanted him to develop more of his leadership skills, his communication and he has definitely developed his personality on and off the pitch this season.

“I think he is feeling more confident about himself as a person and that has transcended onto the pitch.

“George is someone you can rely on and you always want him in the trenches with you.”

Unfortunately Johnston’s chances of breaking into the first team were slim, particularly following the signings of Ki-Jana Hoever and Sepp van den Berg.

However, his exit does leave the young Reds short in defence, with Whelan having moved to Phoenix Rising, Conor Masterson joining QPR, Juanma released and Rhys Williams on loan with Kidderminster Harriers.

This could see Hoever and Van den Berg regularly called upon at academy level, with Nat Phillips also having departed to join VfB Stuttgart on loan on Wednesday.

This Is Anfield wishes George good luck in Rotterdam!