WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 17, 2023: Liverpool's Stefan Bajcetic during the FA Cup 3rd Round Replay match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Stefan Bajcetic’s incredible 15-month rise – Thrashing Everton, contracts and position change

It has been a remarkable rise for Liverpool midfielder Stefan Bajcetic, who only 15 months ago was making a name for himself as part of the under-18s.

In a difficult season for Liverpool so far, Bajcetic has emerged as one of the overriding positives as he breaks through into the first team.

That was compounded on Tuesday night as he shone in the 1-0 win over Wolves in the FA Cup, which was his third start for the club and his ninth senior appearance.

Bajcetic has also featured against Ajax (twice), Derby, Man City, Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Leicester and Napoli this season, and became the club’s third-youngest Premier League goalscorer when he netted against Villa on Boxing Day.

A £220,000 signing from Celta Vigo in 2020, the Spaniard initially arrived on a scholarship deal and joined up with Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s U18s.

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Tuesday, May 4, 2021: Liverpool's Stefan Bajcetic during the Under-18 Premier League match between Liverpool FC 18-23's and Derby County FC Under-18's at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Then a centre-back, talks with his U18s coach along with academy director Alex Inglethorpe led to a tweak in his position, stepping forward into midfield.

“As elegant as he was as a centre-back, we wondered whether he’d have more opportunity if he moved up a line,” Inglethorpe told the Liverpool Echo in December.

“Interestingly, I spoke to Stefan around that time and he said his dad, who is a former player, had always said he’d end up a midfielder.

“I don’t think we were pushing against a closed door with our decision to move Stefan.”

A landmark in that role came during a 4-0 thrashing of Everton in the mini-Merseyside derby in October 2021 – a star turn that included the afternoon’s fourth goal.

That came just over a week on from his 17th birthday, and three weeks on from that, Bajcetic was called up to first-team training along with Bobby Clark.

Days later, the youngster signed his first professional contract.

Due to contractual regulations, the longest that deal could have been was three years, which would have seen it expire in 2024.

But Liverpool moved to tie him down to extended terms in August, when Bajcetic put pen to paper on a new multi-year contract.

Though the exact length of the deal has not been disclosed, it is likely to have been five years, which would take him to 2027, in line with new contracts agreed with Harvey Elliott, Fabio Carvalho and Calvin Ramsay.

Having made his mark during pre-season, the now-18-year-old is proving a valuable squad player for Klopp in a campaign plagued with injuries, including in midfield.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Monday, December 26, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (R) embraces goal-scorer Stefan Bajcetic after the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Yesterday we trained – the session was insane, it was really cool – and I walked off the pitch with Jurgen,” assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders recalled last month.

“He just stands next to me and whispers ‘wow, Stefan and Bobby Clark – they play so mature! They play like they are 25!’.”

Bajcetic is a staple in first-team training and has been in the matchday squad for 22 of 29 games, two of which he missed due to a hip injury, and his role could increase in the coming weeks.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 13, 2022: Liverpool's Stefan Bajcetic comes on as a substitute during the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 2 game between Liverpool FC and AFC Ajax at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If he is allowed to head out on loan in pursuit of a regular starting role next season, however, the teenager already has one suitor.

“I wouldn’t mind taking him on loan next season!” Preston manager Ryan Lowe told the Lancashire Telegraph, after watching the win over Wolves.

Realistically, though, Liverpool may be looking higher up the pyramid if they do allow Bajcetic to move on loan in the summer.