The 6 Liverpool youngsters next in line to break through to the first team

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Liverpool saw three youngsters make their breakthrough into the first team last season, with another likely to follow. But who are the six next in line beyond those?

The Reds’ champions campaign was a long and at times strange one, with the increased demands on a side that won the Champions League last time around seeing the academy benefit.

Runs in the FA Cup and League Cup saw a number of youngsters given first-team action, albeit under the management of under-23s coach Neil Critchley—but more importantly, Jurgen Klopp also called upon his youth ranks too.

Curtis Jones and Neco Williams both finished the season with Premier League winner’s medals, while Harvey Elliott was also given one despite not qualifying based on appearances.

They are widely regarded as first-team options now, and while the player himself insists he is still in the dark over plans, Rhian Brewster could soon follow them.

But with Klopp expressing the need to “create our transfers internally” and name-checking a number of players in particular, the focus is set to remain on promotion from within.

There are six other youngsters now regularly training with the senior squad at Melwood, so who are they and what are their long-term hopes?

 

Vitezslav Jaros

ST HELENS, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 24, 2018: Liverpool's goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros during the UEFA Youth League Group C match between Liverpool FC and FK Crvena zvezda at Langtree Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 19


Jaros has missed almost a full year of football, having suffered an elbow injury during pre-season training with the first team last summer, with it eventually requiring surgery in November.

Despite this, on his return the Czech stopper was named on the substitutes’ bench for the FA Cup fourth round replay against Shrewsbury and regularly joined Alisson, Adrian and Co. at Melwood.

With Andy Lonergan now leaving and Caoimhin Kelleher expected to go out on loan, Jaros could make up for lost time with the learning experience of travelling with the senior squad as third-choice goalkeeper.

He would merit his inclusion, too, having developed significantly since his £300,000 move from Slavia Prague in 2017, namely with his command over the penalty area.

Working with Alisson and under the tutelage of John Achterberg and Jack Robinson could boost his progress next season.

 

Ki-Jana Hoever

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 17, 2019: Liverpool’s Ki-Jana Hoever during the Football League Cup Quarter-Final between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

Position: Centre-back, right-back
Age: 18


Hoever has already played four times for the first team, including becoming one of the club’s youngest-ever players when he came off the bench in the FA Cup defeat to Wolves in 2018/19, but he has now fallen behind Williams.

This came with the teenager joining the Netherlands national team at the Under-17 World Cup midway through last season.

His tournament ended in the semi-finals, and on his return to Merseyside he had shuffled down the pecking order, watching Williams go on to qualify for a Premier League winner’s medal.

But Hoever’s long-term role is seen at centre-back, and despite Liverpool targeting a replacement for Dejan Lovren in the transfer market, he could make inroads in his natural position next season.

He remains a regular presence at Melwood, and having grown in stature over the past two years since his arrival from Ajax, he looks better suited to a future at the heart of the Reds’ defence.

 

Sepp van den Berg

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 4, 2020: Liverpool's Sepp Van Den Berg during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match between Liverpool FC and Shrewsbury Town at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Centre-back
Age: 18


Van den Berg and Hoever are often lumped together when discussing the Reds’ youth prospects, for three main reasons: they’re both Dutch, they’re both defenders and they are clearly close behind the scenes at Melwood.

It could be argued that both are vying for one spot as part of the centre-back corps led by their countryman, Virgil van Dijk, but that is not necessarily the case.

Though it was a tough first season for Van den Berg at Liverpool, in which he made 23 appearances for the academy and four for the first team but at times struggled with the physicality, it will be seen as a crucial experience.

Stepping into defence for the champions of England and being expected to fill the job description is a lot different to making a breakthrough for a side in the bottom half of the Eredivisie, as he did with PEC Zwolle.

Instead, a slower adaptation period is likely, and a new signing will hopefully be brought in not to block the pathway of Van den Berg and Hoever—who should still get chances in 2020/21—but to allow them further time to grow.

 

Leighton Clarkson

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 4, 2020: Liverpool's Leighton Clarkson during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match between Liverpool FC and Shrewsbury Town at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Central midfielder
Age: 18


Clarkson seems to be the youngster those within Klopp’s staff are most excited about from this next group to step up, with Pepijn Lijnders describing him as “the type of No. 6 we really like” and the manager explaining that is the position “where he is calm.”

To pigeonhole the Clitheroe native as a No. 6 at this stage in his development would be wrong, however, as there are many different roles he could fill in the first-team squad.

“I’d say I can play a variety of the midfield positions,” Clarkson told LiverpoolFC.com in May. “I can play as a No. 6, a No. 8 or as a No. 10.”

The teenager summarised his approach succinctly by adding “I’m a passer really,” and this is reinforced by a squad-high 13 assists for the academy in 2019/20.

It is likely that due to his diminutive stature, robustness and technical quality, Clarkson will settle into a role similar to Naby Keita or Gini Wijnaldum.

And while the competition is strong, a new long-term contract at the end of the season is an indication of the club’s belief in him, and after training at Melwood for much of last season, Clarkson could step up further in 2020/21.

 

Jake Cain

GENK, BELGIUM - Wednesday, October 23, 2019: Liverpool's Jake Cain during the UEFA Youth League Group E match between KRC Genk Under-19's and Liverpool FC Under-19's at the KRC Genk Arena Stadium B. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Central midfielder
Age: 18


Like Hoever and Van den Berg, Clarkson and Cain go hand-in-hand when considering Liverpool’s next generation, having developed a strong bond over their almost 10-year partnership in the academy midfield.

While Clarkson has grown into the creator, however, Cain is finding his niche as an all-rounder; if his close friend ends up as a No. 6, the Wigan-born teenager will most likely settle as a No. 8.

No player made more appearances than Cain across Liverpool’s under-23s, under-19s and under-18s last season, and only two—Jones (27) and Layton Stewart (23)—contributed more goals and assists combined for the youth ranks.

Along with his eight goals and 11 assists, Cain also played the full 90 minutes on his senior debut against Shrewsbury in February, and after a strong display at Anfield he has now established himself as a staple at Melwood.

His trademark is becoming a whipped finish as the ball sweeps across him, but more likely to catch Klopp’s eye is his ability to press and harry in the final third.

 

Paul Glatzel

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Thursday, July 11, 2019: Liverpool's Paul Glatzel during a pre-season friendly match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Striker
Age: 19


Glatzel finds himself in a very similar position to Jaros in terms of catching up, having also suffered a season-spoiling injury while on first-team duty last pre-season.

But having recovered from his ACL blow, the striker is back with the senior squad and could battle to be an option alongside the likes of Elliott and Brewster.

A natural finisher, Glatzel stands out from many of his academy counterparts in that he is equally adept at creating, and his selflessness extends to a high-intensity pressing approach in attack.

Given his age, it is unlikely Glatzel has lost any pace due to his injury, but as his strength is largely in his intelligence, that should not be a major issue regardless.

Klopp has taken a liking to the young Scouser, and the club showed their faith in him with a new long-term contract in September—now he can look to make up for lost time at Melwood.

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