Virgil van Dijk is among the leaders of the Liverpool squad during their pre-season training camp, and the No. 4 has singled out 16-year-old Kaide Gordon for praise.
Van Dijk’s return to the field has been one of the highlights of the Reds’ summer warmup, with the Dutchman so far making two appearances including a start against Bologna.
The 30-year-old, back after 285 days out with an ACL injury, played just over 40 minutes in Evian as he builds up his game time ahead of the campaign opener at Norwich on August 14.
Not only has Van Dijk been making an impact on the pitch, though, but also off it as one of the leaders of Jurgen Klopp‘s squad, helping to work with some of the younger talent.
Gordon is the youngest on tour, and is also one of only 14 players to feature in the maximum of four out of five friendlies so far, catching the eye with his quality and bravery on the right flank.
It seems he has settled in well as part of the first-team squad, too, with Van Dijk telling the club’s official website that he has been “coming out of his shell.”
“It’s always nice to see the young boys being lifted and coming out of their shells and stuff,” Van Dijk said.
“Kaide Gordon, who is 16 years old, is coming out of his shell, he is training well and is a great talent.
“It is fun to see and we need everyone, whether you are a chef or the new kitman, we need everyone to perform. I appreciate all of them.”
It is telling that Van Dijk has identified Gordon as one of those to stand out in pre-season, as it reflects the wider perception that the teenager has been one of the surprise performers.
Whether that translates to a first-team role in 2021/22 remains to be seen, though it is more likely that he continues to develop as part of the under-23s squad.
There could be opportunities in the senior setup, however, particularly in training and perhaps even with outings in the FA Cup and League Cup.
If Gordon is called upon, he will already been boosted by his experience as part of the first team for pre-season; he will know the players, they will know him and they can transfer that relationship onto the pitch.
Van Dijk is one of the best role models he could ask for, too, and no doubt he will be on hand for advice whenever needed.