Liverpool have recalled Rhys Williams and Leighton Clarkson from loan spells this month, and one of the young pair could be set to stay with the first team this season.
Sent to the Championship to gain experience throughout the campaign, Williams and Clarkson struggled to kick on with Swansea and Blackburn respectively.
The pair made a combined 12 appearances in the second tier, clocking 624 minutes on the pitch between them, and it was no surprise when Liverpool saw them return early.
It was claimed that Blackburn chose to end Clarkson’s deal, while Swansea manager Russell Martin made it clear that he was open to Williams heading back but unable to sanction that himself, the terms of their agreement requiring the Reds to make the call.
That was a frustrating indictment of their impact on loan, and now Liverpool are faced with a big decision over the 20-year-old duo in the final week of the transfer window.
According to various reports, the club could be set to hold onto Williams while Clarkson departs on another loan deal before 11pm on January 31.
The Athletic‘s James Pearce has claimed that Liverpool have decided Williams “will effectively be their fifth-choice centre-back for the rest of the season,” provided Nat Phillips departs as expected.
Meanwhile, the Liverpool Echo‘s Paul Gorst has explained that “academy sources believe Clarkson will be allowed to find another club to join on loan.”
But when it comes to the midfielder, who has since returned to action with the under-23s, Liverpool “will take a studious approach” to assessing his next destination.
Given their age and – particularly in Clarkson’s case – the steps other young players have taken at first-team level in their absence, this could be a pivotal transfer window for the returning duo.
Spending the rest of the season as inactive as they were on loan in the first half could be hugely detrimental to their progress, at a time when they are looking to play regularly at senior level.
No specific clubs have been mentioned with regards to Clarkson, though the Sheffield Star have claimed that Sheffield United are interested in both Williams and Phillips this month.