Liverpool’s new elite development coach Vitor Matos is seen as “our best signing of the season” by Pepijn Lijnders, who previously filled the role.
Lijnders served as liaison between academy and first team from 2015 to 2018, before returning from a spell in charge of NEC Nijmegen to become Jurgen Klopp‘s No. 2.
It is a duty the Dutchman is familiar with, as is the work of Matos, with the pair having worked together at Porto.
Matos joined the Reds from the Portuguese side in October, having served as assistant coach of their B team, after a spell with Chinese outfit Shandong Luneng as youth technical coordinator.
He has been a regular presence at both Melwood and Kirkby since, along with at academy games including the under-19s’ clashes with Salzburg and Genk in the UEFA Youth League.
Given their shared history, Lijnders was perfectly placed to discuss Matos’ impact in his first week at Liverpool, and his praise was telling.
“For me, he is our best signing of the season,” he told reporters.
“He’s a talented coach, an intelligent coach. He can make the next step with all these young players. We already see the impact he’s made on them.
“Having one really intelligent, talented coach for young players, one-on-one, he can inspire eight or nine of them.
“It’s really important to have the right people in front of them.
“Of course, he influences the boys on the pitch and trains with them, but he [also] connects departments.
“So he connects our academy, Alex [Inglethorpe, academy director] and Critch [U23s manager Neil], me and Jurgen of course, [loan pathways manager] Julian Ward and Michael Edwards.
“He’s basically the connector of these three parts of the club. We’re really happy that he’s here!”
It will be interesting to see how Matos’ role at Liverpool develops over the years, with the club moving to a new all-purpose training ground in Kirkby next summer.
Currently, he will be operating between two bases, and it is likely that a ‘Talent Group’ of the best young players still spends a day or two a week training at Melwood.
This allows an element of a pathway between academy and first team for which Matos is essential, but when all groups are working at one base, this could prove easier.
In this respect the hope will be that opportunities for young players—such as for the likes of Neco Williams and Curtis Jones of late—can only improve in the next year.
Clearly, Liverpool see the position of elite development coach as essential, and Lijnders’ comments on Matos’ early impact suggest they have secured the right man for the job.