This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Jurgen Klopp rates his young Liverpool prospects highly. Very highly.
The German has already spoken of his plans for 19-year-old striker Rhian Brewster, revealing how he has set aside an “important” role for the teenager at Anfield this season.
The Independent reported that it is the England U17 World Cup winner’s presence at the club that saw Klopp refrain from spending big this summer.
Another name mentioned in that specific article is 17-year-old Sepp van den Berg, a talented young centre-back who the Reds plucked from PEC Zwolle for just £1.3m. The teenager, like Brewster, has been handed a place in the European champions’ squad for this season’s edition of the Champions League.
Another surprise figure to make the Merseysiders’ Champions League squad is 16-year-old Harvey Elliott.
But why all of this background context?
Well, as of now, Klopp hasn’t handed any of them a single second of first-team football since the competitive campaign begun.
Whilst you may argue that this is because competitions such as the Carabao Cup and FA Cup haven’t begun for the Reds yet, a Premier League rival has already proved that there is a model which can help aid the development of young players.
A feeder club.
Chelsea are known to have a relationship with Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem, a Dutch outfit who have been essential in handing invaluable first-team opportunities to the Blues’ young prospects.
A lot of Chelsea prodigies, such as Gael Kakuta and Josh McEachran, have fallen into obscurity despite spending time at Vitesse, but there have been a number of success stories that should tempt Liverpool into finding a feeder club themselves.
Mason Mount has spent time with Vitesse on loan, scoring 14 league goals and grabbing nine assists in his one season with them.
The 20-year-old recently made his England debut and has emerged as an important player in Chelsea’s first-team under Frank Lampard having already netted in the Premier League. He also played a pivotal role in Derby’s route to the playoff final last season with nine goals and four assists.
Another Vitesse success story, believe it or not, is Nemanja Matic.
The Serbian joined the Dutch side on loan from Chelsea as a 22-year-old, and went on to re-sign for the Blues having previously been sold to Benfica.
Crystal Palace left-back Patrick van Aanholt was another name to spend valuable time with Vitesse as a young up-and-comer, taking that experience in to become a first-team regular for both Sunderland and the Eagles in the Premier League.
Whilst, like van Aanholt, he didn’t necessarily succeed at Chelsea, Dominic Solanke has since become a £19m signing for Bournemouth and an England U20 World Cup winner, having also won the Golden Ball award at that tournament for his efforts. And yes, you guessed it, Solanke also spent time with Vitesse.
These players have proven that first-team football in foreign surroundings, at such a young age, can prove invaluable to their footballing development later down the line.
Brewster is a player who finds himself behind the illustrious forward line of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino so it’s difficult to see how he’ll get any senior football on a regular basis.
Elliott, Hoever and van den Berg face similar problems, considering this Liverpool squad reached the Champions League final last season with one-time established England players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana not even in the starting XI.
Perhaps, therefore, a feeder club would be beneficial. Instead of limiting his precocious young guns to a few minutes here and there, Klopp should look to follow Chelsea’s lead and find a club that can help his prodigies hone their burgeoning talents.