Liverpool currently have 11 players out on loan, with youth and experience having mixed fortunes so far at clubs as near as Blackburn and as far as Berlin.
The Reds typically utilise the loan market for any of three reasons: to allow a talented young player to gain first-team experience, to provide a fringe player a chance to revive his career and, less frequently, to secure work permits.
With 12 players out on loan in the first half of the season, Liverpool sought the benefits of all three – though the majority fall into the middle bracket of players needing a move to boost their fortunes.
Tony Gallacher has already seen his deal with Toronto FC expire due to the end of the MLS season, which leaves 11 others still away from the club.
Here’s how they are performing at the midway stage of 2020/21, starting with Harvey Elliott.
Harvey Elliott (Blackburn)
Elliott is, without a doubt, the success story among Liverpool’s loanees this season, having hit the ground running at Blackburn and rarely making a misstep.
The 17-year-old immediately commanded a key role in Tony Mowbray’s starting lineup, typically operating from the right but also on the left, as the most advanced midfielder and even, during one game, up front.
Scoring and assisting regularly, Elliott has been described by his team-mate at Rovers, Stewart Downing, as a “frightening talent” and “almost the go-to man” which, given his age, is a big responsibility.
Perhaps the highlight of his loan so far was a superb solo goal against Norwich, but the range of passing and work rate on show in every game may impress Liverpool more as they monitor Elliott’s progress at Ewood Park.
What comes next? Keep it up and Elliott will return as a first-team option next season.
Harry Wilson & Sheyi Ojo (Cardiff)
Cardiff secured something of a coup as they sealed loans for Ojo and then Wilson in the summer, with the pair able to build on the chemistry built over years together at Kirkby as regular starters under Neil Harris.
Like Elliott, they are both scoring and assisting on a frequent basis, with only striker Keiffer Moore influencing the scoresheet more regularly, and their ability to interchange within a fluid four-man attack is hugely valuable.
Consistency has been an issue in south Wales, however, and while this is applicable to Cardiff as a whole, it is seemingly the case, too, with the Reds’ loanees.
Nevertheless, Wilson remains one of the Championship’s most creative players, while Ojo is finally complementing his unpredictable attacking ability with the requisite application off the ball.
What comes next? Both are likely to be sold in the summer, and their work together at Cardiff could boost interest.
Marko Grujic (Porto)
There was a clamour for Grujic to stay at Liverpool in the final days of the extended transfer window, following two impressive displays in the League Cup and in the knowledge that this was a campaign like no other.
But a move to Porto was deemed a positive one for the Serbian – particularly as it presented the chance to deal Man City a blow in their Champions League group.
Perhaps unsurprisingly as a last-minute loan signing, Grujic has remained a bit-part player, coming off the bench more often than he starts and, particularly recently, being afforded few minutes when he is introduced.
The midfield pairing of Sergio Oliveira and Mateus Uribe will be difficult to break up, but that will be Grujic’s goal in 2021.
What comes next? Hopefully Grujic’s minutes pick up, as Liverpool will likely be looking to cash in.
Taiwo Awoniyi & Loris Karius (Union Berlin)
Two Liverpool players in Berlin, it has been a season of diverging fortunes for Awoniyi and Karius so far.
For Awoniyi, a move to Union has served as an opportunity to build on his promising end to the Bundesliga campaign with Mainz last time out – and in an injury crisis the Nigerian has stepped up, with four goals and an assist in six starts before the end of 2020.
This included a goal in a 2-1 win over Dortmund, while only the reflexes of Manuel Neuer kept him from finding the back of the net against Bayern Munich, and though there is fine-tuning required, he may be convincing onlookers that he would be worth a permanent deal.
Karius, meanwhile, has been limited to one disappointing outing in a 3-2 loss to Paderborn in the DFB-Pokal, amid speculation over a possible termination of his deal this month.
What comes next? For Awoniyi, hopefully a chance to finally settle at a permanent home; for Karius, more uncertainty awaits.
Ben Woodburn (Blackpool)
Despite rumours of a switch to Sparta Rotterdam in the Eredivisie, Woodburn instead made the step down to League One, for a reunion with Neil Critchley at Blackpool.
Things started well for Woodburn, despite a run of poor results, before a positive test for COVID-19 derailed his momentum, and the 21-year-old has found it difficult to break into the side since.
Another test of his mettle, then, as 2021 brings a challenge for Liverpool’s youngest-ever goalscorer to break into the side and prove he can perform week in, week out.
In doing so, he may secure his route out of the fringes on Merseyside and finally onto a meaningful career at senior level – though time is running out, with his deal at Blackpool currently due to expire on January 17.
What comes next? A permanent move to the Football League to revive his fortunes.
Kamil Grabara (AGF Aarhus)
PAOK and Hamburg were both credited with an interest in Grabara in the summer, which would have served as a positive step for the Polish goalkeeper – a chance to play in the Europa League, or a promotion-chasing side in Germany.
Instead, the 21-year-old ultimately returned to AGF, where he had spent a productive half-season in 2019 before heading to Huddersfield for an ill-fated campaign last time out.
Grabara has been first choice in Denmark, so the move is not without its merits, but his form has been patchy – with a number of costly errors – and it is hardly a platform for him to convince coaches for either club or country.
What comes next? Likely sold, but interest may be low after a backwards step.
Adam Lewis (Amiens)
“I had other options in England, but I wanted a challenge,” Lewis explained on deciding to join Ligue 1 side Amiens in August. “I wanted to come abroad and have that different culture, living away from home, which is hard.”
This season may be a formative one for Lewis the man, as he mentions, denied the comforts of Merseyside and his family, but on the back of a long-term injury and turning 21 in November, the left-back also needed to play football.
Amiens has not offered much of that, with an initial run of starts eventually seeing him lose his place and, after another injury, he missed the last seven games of 2020.
It is a situation similar to Ojo at Stade de Reims two seasons ago, which may be worrying to a player previously considered next in line for a role as Andy Robertson‘s deputy.
What comes next? France was an admirable gamble, but a Football League loan may benefit Lewis in the summer.
Morgan Boyes (Fleetwood)
Another young talent barely given a chance by his loan club, Boyes only featured four times under Joey Barton in the first half of the season – the only game in which he avoided defeat was a penalty shootout victory over Blackpool in the EFL Trophy.
The Wales youth international has lost his place entirely at this point – considered a young player with potential, rather than a genuine first-team option – and it may even be that he returns to Liverpool this month.
Boyes is a talented centre-back who has already shown he can mix it with senior players, but Fleetwood seems not to be the right club for him.
EDIT: Boyes’ loan at Fleetwood was terminated on January 2.
What comes next? Like Lewis, another loan in the lower leagues.
Anderson Arroyo (Salamanca)
An enigma at Liverpool, Arroyo is in his third season with the Reds and many supporters may not even be aware of the Colombian full-back.
In the early months of the campaign, Arroyo’s move to Salamanca – in the Spanish second tier – seemed doomed to the same fate as his previous spells with KAA Gent and Mlada Boleslav: a spare part, largely unused.
But the final three games of 2020 brought a ray of hope for the 21-year-old, as he started in three consecutive games – strangely, deployed in three very different roles as right-back, left winger and centre-forward.
There remain question marks over his form among Salamanca supporters, but a regular role with the Spanish club may result in a UK work permit when he returns to Liverpool.
What comes next? If he qualifies for a work permit, perhaps a season at Kirkby; more likely another loan.