MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Friday, April 12, 2024: Liverpool's substitute Isaac Mabaya walks off with an injury during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Manchester United FC Under-21's and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Old Trafford. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Forgotten Liverpool right-back suffers another injury – “a fantastic character”

England youth international and Liverpool right-back Isaac Mabaya has suffered yet another injury, but under-21 manager Barry Lewtas believes he can bounce back.

Last Friday, Mabaya came on at Old Trafford as Liverpool U21s beat Man United 3-0, for just his fifth appearance in 18 months.

He lasted just a few minutes, though, before being forced off with a suspected hamstring problem. His frustration was visible as he kicked the advertising hoardings and held his head in his hands.

As he walked around the edge of the pitch, even the applause from Liverpool’s travelling supporters and his teammates’ words of support couldn’t cheer him up.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Friday, August 25, 2023: Liverpool's Isaac Mabaya (L) and Under-21's head coach Barry Lewtas during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Southampton FC Under-21's and Liverpool FC Under-21's at the Testwood Stadium. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by Robin Jones/Propaganda)

“Isaac’s sadly on that list of players who’ve missed a lot of football,” under-21 boss Barry Lewtas told This Is Anfield.

“He is a fantastic character. He’s a strong boy, we’ve had these moments before with players who’ve come through the other side, we’ll just keeping working hard.”

It was the only negative on a night that saw the young Reds overwhelm Man United with superior quality.

Lewtas admitted: “That probably does take the gloss off it. You could see when he went down, how many players ran over to him.

“He’s a popular kid, he’s a great lad. I’m sure he’ll be OK.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 31, 2022: Liverpool's Isaac Mabaya during the pre-match warm-up before a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and RC Strasbourg Alsace at Anfield. Strasbourg won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mabaya’s name first came on the radar for fans when he featured for Liverpool in the pre-season of 2022. His time since, though, has largely been spent on the sidelines.

The youngster signed is first professional contract with the club in 2021 and, thankfully, Liverpool haven’t lost confidence in the 19-year-old – he signed a new long-term contract in May 2023.

Later that year, he earned a call-up for the Zimbabwe senior side, but hasn’t featured for the nation yet. He previously played for England from under-15 to under-19 level.

He is one of several right-backs in the academy who are eyeing a future spot in the first-team squad.

Conor Bradley and Trent Alexander-Arnold have both shown it is possible to come through the ranks in that position, but the subsequent academy graduates now face even greater competition due to their success.

It isn’t yet clear how long Mabaya will be kept out for with this latest problem but, at 19-years-old, time is still on his side.