Bobby Duncan’s acrimonious ending to his Liverpool career underlined the fragility and uncertainty underpinning the development of young footballing prodigies.
Dubbed “the next Robbie Fowler”, Duncan could have added fuel to a perpetually rising fire which represents the rivalry between Manchester City and Liverpool.
Snatched away from Pep Guardiola’s grasp in 2018, Duncan’s goal scoring prowess rapidly revealed the reason behind Liverpool’s swoop. A return of 25 goals and eight assists in 36 appearances for the U18s pointed towards the emergence of a player who was indeed capable of emulating Fowler.
Until, of course, everything came crashing down in the summer of 2019. Following a fiasco involving his agent, one rather inappropriately played out in the public eye, the exciting wonderkid moved to Fiorentina.
That chapter has finished now but the closing of one page leads to the opening of another, and Duncan’s exit does not necessarily imply that Liverpool will not be bringing a talented striker into the senior squad in the coming years.
Indeed, Paul Glatzel was almost as impressive as Duncan in the 2018/19 season, scoring 21 goals and providing four assists in 30 appearances. Their respective records are remarkably similar but neither have kicked on this season for contrasting reasons.
Glatzel, 19, has been ruled out with a knee injury and has missed the opportunity to make his senior bow in the midst of a campaign in which Klopp has been willing and able to promote youngsters into the first team squad.
But, despite his absence, the club still appear to hold high hopes for his future.
An academy source recently spoke of his potential to elevate into the senior setup while speaking to The Athletic.
“Glatzel knows where the ball is.
“There is cold blood running through his veins. Nothing really phases him. If he gets over his injury, he’s got a great chance.”
The key here lies in the final point. If he can conquer this setback then he will be in with a chance of breaking through, but lengthy injuries are historically problematic and carry the potential to disrupt a player’s development.
However, fans can take solace from the fact that he reportedly smashed the lactate test on the first day of pre-season training in 2019, beating Yasser Larouci in the process in a feat that attests to his physical prowess.
Perhaps he will not be capable of triumphing in the lactate test immediately after he returns from the lengthy lay off but evidently he is a natural athlete, and that can only be conducive to a positive career in the game whether that be at Liverpool or elsewhere.
The decision to offer Glatzel a long-term contract in September 2019 could well be an indication of the club’s desire to ensure that Duncan remains an anomaly to the rule, a dark stain in an otherwise harmonious and focused academy system where everyone shares the same common goal: do everything in your power to play your way into Klopp’s first-team.
It remains to be seen how Glatzel will perform following his comeback from injury but murmurs emerging from the club, combined with his clinical record in 2018/19, suggest he could be the next academy goal machine to complete the transition into the senior squad.