Jurgen Klopp reveals his first impression when Trent Alexander-Arnold joined training

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Jurgen Klopp has joked that he was a “little bit skeptical” when Pepijn Lijnders first introduced him to Trent Alexander-Arnold due to claims over his potential.

It is rare that a prospect of Trent’s calibre emerges from the academy at Kirkby.

Many top-class players have come through the ranks and represented Liverpool, and some—like Wolves captain Conor Coady—have forged excellent careers elsewhere if things haven’t quite worked out on Merseyside.

But Trent is a generational talent, and at 21, three-and-a-half years on from his debut, has now played 125 times for the first team and become the youngest player to start back-to-back Champions League finals, winning one.

He is widely considered one of the best right-backs in world football, and his scope for improving further is scary; the No. 66 could cement himself as one of the best ever if his rise continues.

Such was his potential in Lijnders’ under-16s side, and later his Talent Group, that when the Dutchman discussed him with Klopp the manager was rightly cautious.

Fortunately, as he told Guillem Balague’s Pure Football Podcast, the youngster went on to surpass expectations and battled through initial concerns he “was not fit enough.”

“Pep Lijnders brought him around and said ‘he played No. 6 for me, he played full-back, he can play right wing, left wing’,” Klopp recounted.

“If you hear something like that you should be a little bit skeptical, ‘OK…and what else?’.

“But then he came and there was only one problem: he was not fit enough. But he was a kid. He was not fit enough, but you saw him, ‘wow’, football-wise no doubts, but not fit enough.

“So we had to work on that, but then he made steps by himself that were unbelievable, and it’s really nice to see.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 10, 2018: Manchester United's Marcus Rashford scores the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One of the early cornerstones of Trent’s development at first-team level was the 2-1 loss to Man United in 2018—his 34th game for the club—in which Marcus Rashford repeatedly exploited him on the flank, scoring both goals.

Klopp touched upon that in his assessment of the right-back’s early days, saying he “really felt responsible” for his difficult afternoon up against the direct Rashford.

“He made mistakes and didn’t give up,” he continued.

“I know after the United game a lot people said immediately—that’s how it always is in football—they need a new whatever, full-back, more experience.

“If he makes mistakes like he made in that game, that’s really my fault. That he doesn’t know to close the inside in these situations, it’s of course my mistake.

“He probably knows it, but to know it is one thing, [you need to] use it as well, especially playing against Rashford on the left wing, it’s clear that you have to do that.

“I didn’t tell him again before the game, we spoke for sure whenever about it, but not before the game, so I really felt responsible for that.

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 21, 2018: Liverpool's manager J¸rgen Klopp celebrates the 4-1 victory over West Ham United with Trent Alexander-Arnold after the UEFA Youth League Quarter-Final match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“There was not one second that I thought ‘yeah, he never will learn that, it’s so easy to change that’, it’s only not possible in the game anymore.

“I said a few times, I’m really emotional in and around the game, but I’m very patient with things like that.”

Unsurprisingly, Klopp persevered with the West Derby-born full-back, alternating him with Joe Gomez to avoid burnout for either player and allow Trent to adjust to his place in the first team.

It has paid off significantly, with Trent now rarely troubled to the extent he was that day at Old Trafford, with the manager’s patience proving key.

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