KARLSRUHE, GERMANY - Wednesday, July 19, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) speaks with goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros after a pre-season friendly match between Karlsruher SC and Liverpool FC at the Wildparkstadion. Liverpool won 4-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Exclusive: What it’s like to sign for Liverpool FC – salary caps and no phones!

From signing at 16 to training with the first team, goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros speaks to This Is Anfield on life as a player coming through at Liverpool.

For a 16-year-old Vitezslav Jaros, when Liverpool came calling it was eventually an easy decision.

“I went on two trials at Liverpool and then after the second one, it was the case of Liverpool saying: ‘Yeah, we want you to sign for us’,” Jaros tells This is Anfield.

“I remember talking to my dad and my mom and they just said to me, ‘you make the decision, it’s up to you but the option to go to Liverpool might not ever come again’. I decided that’s what I wanted to do, and I wanted to chase my dreams.”

He may have been clear in his conviction, but moving thousands of miles away from home to a new country and a new culture also had its challenges.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into,” he admits.

“I knew Liverpool were the biggest club in the world, but I didn’t know where I was going to live, who was going to be the coach, how it was going to work and stuff like that. So, it was a little bit scary.”


Settling in

STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 9, 2017: Liverpool's goalkeeper Viteslav Jaros warms-up before an Under-18 FA Premier League match between Stoke City and Liverpool at the Clayton Wood Training Ground. (Pic by Laura Malkin/Propaganda)

Fortunately, Liverpool were there to support him along every step of the way to help make his transition as easy as possible.

“I got used to it quite quickly,” he explains. “The family that I stayed with over there, they helped me through everything, so it was quite easy after that.”

It’s now almost seven years since Jaros made the move to Liverpool, and he doesn’t regret any minute of it.

The Czech goalkeeper has made great progress over the years, winning the FA Youth Cup with the club’s U18s, and lifting the Irish Cup with St Patrick’s Athletic while on loan in 2021.

Now catching the eye at Austrian outfit Sturm Graz, with the Austrian Cup in the bag and a title to be won, Jaros is another great example of the excellent work being done at the club’s academy to develop young talents and help them fulfil their potential.

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 11, 2016: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp along side first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders, goalkeeping coach John Achterberg, Alex Inglethorpe and Steve McManaman watch the Under-23 side take on Leicester City during the FA Premier League 2 Under-23 match at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I think Alex Inglethorpe is doing a really good job with the academy,” he says.

Inglethorpe has been Liverpool’s academy director since 2014. Under his leadership the club introduced a wage cap for Liverpool’s youngsters, which means they cannot earn above £50,000 in the first year of their professional contract.

Jaros believes this has provided important foundations for Liverpool’s success in bringing through young players to the first team.


“You had to hand your phone in”

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Friday, December 15, 2017: Liverpool's Under-18 manager Steven Gerrard watches with former player Steve McManaman and Academy Director Alex Inglethorpe during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool and Swansea City at the Kirkby Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“It’s one of the biggest things right now,” Jaros says. “All the big Premier League clubs, they give the young lads massive contracts, and they already think they made it.

“I think [having a wage cap] keeps the hunger a little bit more in [you] at Liverpool, where they don’t get the big money right away and they have to work and earn their way. So, I think that’s one of the biggest things.”

As well as a tight wage cap, there are also strict rules the club’s academy players have to adhere to.

“You couldn’t have a bigger than 1.3 litre engine [car]. You had to hand your phone in after breakfast. We had a wage cap as well, I think it’s even a little bit stricter now.”

Jaros admits the rules weren’t always easy to follow, but it helped him to adapt to his environment and mature in the dressing room.

NAPLES, ITALY - Wednesday, October 3, 2018: Liverpool's captain Adam Lewis (R) leads his side out before the UEFA Youth League Group C match between S.S.C. Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio Comunale di Frattamaggiore. Liam Coyle, goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros, captain Adam Lewis. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I think the phone was the hardest thing because when I first came,” he says.

“I didn’t really speak good English, so for me being on my phone in the changing room was like a safe place, but I think it got me to talking to the lads and getting involved with the group, which was good.”

It may be difficult as a young man to give up something so precious as a mobile phone these days, but you cannot argue with the results of Liverpool’s methods.


First-team chances – and Szbosozlai’s shooting

KARLSRUHER, GERMANY - Wednesday, July 19, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) speaks with goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros after a pre-season friendly match between Karlsruher SC and Liverpool FC at the Wildparkstadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Many of Jaros’ team-mates, like Curtis Jones, Neco Williams, Rhys Williams, Jake Cain and Leighton Clarkson, have gone on to feature for the first team under Jurgen Klopp.

Jaros himself featured for the first team in pre-season and has been regularly training with the club from a young age, making great progress in his development.

Earlier this season, he spent six months training with the first team and even sat on the bench in the Europa League.

PART ONE: Vitezslav Jaros: Liverpool goalkeeper on potential double – and Euros hopes

“It was good being around the first team in training,” he says. “But the only thing that was lacking was the game time. Coming here [to Sturm Graz] was a perfect option for that. I needed it to get used to playing.”

During his time in first-team training, Jaros got to put his goalkeeping skills to the test against some of the best shooters in the Premier League, including the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah, in what was a useful learning curve in his development.

“Yeah, it’s a nightmare,” he jokes!

“It’s not easy at all, because as you can see in the Premier League as well it’s like they’re just ready when they get that one chance. They’re ready. It’s always in the side-netting and it’s struck with power as well, so it’s not easy to save them.”

SINGAPORE - Saturday, July 29, 2023: Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai during a training session ahead of the pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at the Singapore National Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

According to Jaros the most difficult shots were struck not by Salah nor Alexander-Arnold, but instead by Liverpool’s £60 million acquisition from last summer:

“I’d say Dom Szoboszlai. Just really powerful and it’s not just down the middle. It’s powerful into the top corner or the side-netting.”

When he wasn’t trying to stop shots, Jaros spent most of his time training alongside Alisson and Caoimhin Kelleher on a day-to-day basis. He saw firsthand the standards they set, and the commitment needed to make it at the highest level. He admits it’s something he is also trying to incorporate into his own game:

“You see what standard they work at every day. Always 100 percent and it’s a good thing to have. So, I definitely try copy that.”


Training with Alisson

HERNING, DENMARK - Wednesday, December 9, 2020: Liverpool's goalkeeper Jaros Vitezslav during the pre-match warm-up before the UEFA Champions League Group D match between FC Midtjylland and Liverpool FC at the Herning Arena. (Pic by Lars Møller/Propaganda)

Jaros is also keen to highlight the work being done in Liverpool’s goalkeeping department.

In the last decade, Liverpool has produced a plethora of talented goalkeepers that have gone onto play at the highest level. From the aforementioned Kelleher to Bundesliga-bound Kamil Grabara and RB Leipzig No. 1 Peter Gulacsi – both of whom have been playing in the Champions League regularly over the last few seasons.

“It’s not just Ali and Caoimhin,” he says. “There’s also Taff (Claudio Taffarel), Jack [Robinson] and John [Achterberg]. They are really good goalkeeper coaches, who can help you improve if you’re willing to learn, so I think working with them helps a lot as well.”

It helps that young players are being trusted and given opportunities to showcase their ability at first-team level. Kelleher is a shining example of that according to Jaros.

“It’s good to see there’s a pathway. Not everywhere you get that the top clubs,” he assesses. “They could easily go and buy someone for £40 million or £50 million, but they trusted [Kelleher] and they stuck with him, and I think it’s paying off because he’s now had a decent run of games and he’s starting to really show how good he is, and I think the fans are starting to really notice.”

KARLSRUHE, GERMANY - Wednesday, July 19, 2023: Liverpool's goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros during a pre-season friendly match between Karlsruher SC and Liverpool FC at the Wildparkstadion. Liverpool won 4-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One of the key attributes of the Liverpool goalkeepers who have come through over the last few years is their ability on the ball. Kelleher has stood out this season for his composure in possession, and it’s something that Jaros tries to imitate in his game as well.

“The game has changed quite a bit. I think from when I first started playing as a young kid, I’m watching the football, and it was the Petr Cech era and it was pretty much just long balls,” he explains.

“But now it’s more about keeping the ball at the back now, moving it forward. So yeah, it’s something that I work on pretty much every day and try and improve in that because it helps the team, and it helps you.”

To develop his ability on the ball, Jaros goes through a meticulous and repetitive routine.

“It’s just passing the ball and knowing how to clip it 40 yards, 50 yards,” explains the 22-year-old. “And then if you need to go over it and go over it, making the right decision.”


“A new manager is going to be coming in…”

2X4XK0D Rotterdam, Netherlands. 05th May, 2024. ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MAY 5: Headcoach Arne Slot of Feyenoord get the applauds of the fans during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Feyenoord and PEC Zwolle at Stadion Feijenoord on May 5, 2024 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Hans van der Valk/Orange Pictures) Credit: Orange Pics BV/Alamy Live News

Looking ahead to the future, Jaros knows he still has a long way to go, but he has made impressive strides at Sturm Graz over the last few months.

“I think just all round, really,” he replies on what he needs to work on. “I think you can always improve everything. So yeah, shot-stopping, crossing, playing out everything really. Trying to work on a daily and weekly basis.”

He says the dream is still to play for Liverpool and follow in the footsteps of compatriots like Milan Baros and Vladimir Smicer:

“They won the Champions League and they are probably some of the biggest names in Czech football, so it’s a case of wanting to follow in the footsteps of what they left and carry on their legacy. That’s not happened yet but hopefully in the future I get a chance to do that.”

BRIGHTON & HOVE, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 8, 2023: Liverpool's goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For now, though, he is taking it one step at a time.

“I don’t really set long-term targets because you don’t know what’s going to happen along the way,” he wraps up.

“I try to think short term, so [right now] until the end of the season now, and then in the summer a new manager is going to be coming in [at Liverpool] and I will see what happens.”

* Read the first part of our exclusive interview with Liverpool’s Vitezslav Jaros here