Eager to continue the success and entertainment of last season, the sale of Luis Suarez leaves Liverpool with a promising opening in their team. While the latest ignominy surrounding Suarez is undoubtedly a significant factor in his transfer to Barcelona, Liverpool have demonstrated an admirable restraint and class throughout the move, and have negotiated a hefty figure for the talented striker. Signs appear, promisingly, that rather than spending it all on a big money signing, the Reds are looking to promising youth, predominately and pleasingly from their own ranks, to fill that space. In a league often questioned over the influx of foreign players at the expense of our own, Liverpool have shown an admirable commitment to the development of their own players.
The need for increased support will provide further opportunities for young players. The most evident and established of these young contenders will undoubtedly be Raheem Sterling, a mainstay for the Premier League runners-up who has consistently demonstrated why many pundits and fans alike consider him to be one of the finest young talents in world football. Long admired within Liverpool’s youth setup, it has been under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers that Sterling’s youthful energy and confrontational play – he excels when running at defenders, and his slender 5 foot 6 frame disguises a surprising strength and tenacity – has been channelled into the intelligent and versatile football he is now demonstrating. While 18 year old Sterling has cemented his status as one of football’s most promising players, his fellow young forwards will have the chance to step up following Suarez’s exit.
Academy player Jordon Ibe will likewise benefit from the need for attacking reinforcements. Ibe, whose mazy runs, electric pace and accomplished passing left him with two assists in Saturday’s pre-season victory against Preston North End, is held in supremely high regard, with comparisons to Raheem Sterling whetting the appetites of fans keen to see the pair hurtling down each wing. Having gained first-team experience during a 6-month spell at Birmingham, the young winger will hope for the chance to shine this season. Similarly returning from loan is versatile Spanish youngster Suso, following promising performances for UD Almería. The young Spaniard has spoken publicly about his desire to stay at Anfield, and Rodgers has responded with praise and the promise of opportunity for the talented midfielder.
The money made from Suarez’s move has been similarly utilised to develop a strong, cohesive and youthful selection, allowing Brendan Rogers to wrap up deals for some of the most exciting young players in Europe. The first of these was Bayer Leverkusen’s Emre Can. Highly respected within the game, including a ringing endorsement from Liverpool hero Sami Hyypiä, who knows Can well from his tenure as Leverkusen manager, the defensive midfielder has impressed throughout his fledgling career and many suggest he is seen as the natural successor to the newly deep-lying Steven Gerrard. Perhaps the most high-profile acquisition, thanks to his £19.8 million price tag and interest from Chelsea, is speedy winger Lazar Markovic. Speaking of his thirst for success the 20 year old stated “I won the title at Partizan and Benfica. Now I want to win the title with Liverpool.” Lastly, striker Divock Origi, who shone in Belgium’s World Cup efforts, is weighing his options following numerous offers, with Liverpool supposedly frontrunners. The Anfield faithful may, though, have to wait until next year to see Origi in action as reports suggest that any deal is contingent on him returning on loan to Lille for next season.
The promise of these young players, bolstered by the acquisitions of Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana from Southampton, both of whom offer experience and familiarity with the pace and physicality of the Premier League, have answered the questions surrounding Liverpool’s relative lack of squad depth in comparison to their rivals and gone a long way to filling Suarez’s vacant slot. By valuing the place of youth within their already successful set-up, Liverpool are demonstrating an admirable commitment to generation-building and longevity, and thus they have the potential to take long-term gains from a precarious situation.
How can Liverpool strike the right balance between youth and experience?