Who Is Liverpool’s Next Breakout Star?
During each Premier League season, there are a handful of new stars uncovered. Some of these are new signings to the Premier League, others are youngsters that are making their names for the first time in their professional careers. At Liverpool, there is a huge amount of excitement over the new signings of Naby Keita, Fabinho, Alisson and Xherdan Shaqiri, but there should also be excitement over several youngsters who have grasped their chances during the pre-season. But it begs the question, which youngster is going to follow in the footsteps of Trent Alexander-Arnold and be Liverpool’s next breakout star?
Scouse, 17 and playing in central midfield at youth level. Jones’ career so far is eerily similar to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s, Jones even played a part of the pre-season friendly against Manchester United at right-back. While Jones is unlikely to follow in Trent’s footsteps and make right-back his permanent position, Liverpool legend John Aldridge believes that Jones can follow Trent’s example and be playing for England by the age of 19.
The level to which Jones is held at Liverpool means that Aldridge will not be the only one thinking this and given his fleet-footed displays in the centre of midfield throughout pre-season, Jones will be a name that Klopp will have no trouble calling up should numbers be needed in the team or the creative talents behind the front 3 are misfiring.
Indeed, Jones found himself a regular in travelling squads at the back-end of last year, following a meteoric rise which saw Steven Gerrard build the under-18 team around Jones’ talents at the beginning of the season with Jones only being promoted to the under-23’s in January 2018 before making the first-team bench for the 0-0 draw with Everton in April.
However, for Jones to make this his breakthrough season, he will have to take any opportunities with both hands due to the competition for places in the midfield, however hope can be taken from the fact that Liverpool were looking at Fekir to take up Jones’ preferred number 10 position, but with that deal seemingly on the rocks, a spot in the squad could be free for Jones to fill.
18-year old Portuguese winger Camacho has had a strange but hugely impressive pre-season. Last season Camacho, was able to 14 goals at under-18 and 19 level before breaking into the under-23’s and making the squad for the first-team game against Everton, in a similar manner to Jones. However, this pre-season, Camacho has seen Klopp exploring his versatility, mainly through utilisation at right-back. Here, Camacho has put in several strong performances, linking up well with first-team players on the right-hand side when attacking, including a nice assist for Mo Salah against Manchester City.
In terms of chances in the coming season, Camacho finds himself competing for places on the wing with some of Liverpool’s most talented stars, ensuring that he will find it tough to make a massive impression on the team. However, with Liverpool competing across four competitions, Camacho should find himself with chances in the domestic cups, particularly the League Cup, if he can keep up his impressive pre-season form in outings for the under-23 side.
Following the signing of Alisson, not much thought has been given to Liverpool’s other goalkeepers with it being assumed that they won’t be given much game time. Indeed, this has led to rumours that both Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius are looking for ways out of Anfield, with them unwilling to be back-up to the Brazilian.
If both Mignolet and Karius do leave, then that will see 19-year-old Polish goalkeeper Grabara promoted to Alisson’s main understudy. While his game time will be limited, the Polish keeper could find himself given chances in cup competitions with league matches coming his way should Alisson get injured.
Prior to pre-season, this would have been highly unlikely. Despite Grabara’s self-confidence and belief he will be a first-team regular by the age of 23, his lack of experience would have counted against him. However, when you combine the fact he made just a sole mistake at youth level last season, the way he commands his box and appears to be an all-around keeper and his accomplished performances against Bury and in front of 101,254 spectators against Manchester United during pre-season, there is a sense that he is almost too good for another season in the youth teams. Unlikely to be loaned out, Grabara must be hoping that Klopp sells both Mignolet and Karius so he can begin to play competitive matches at senior level.
At 21-years old, Nathan Phillips is the oldest possible breakout star. Indeed, already being 21, not many expected Phillips to be in a position where he could be breaking into the Liverpool side, however, with Liverpool missing different centre-backs at different points of pre-season, Phillips has found himself with a chance to impress, which he has taken well.
When all centre-backs are fit, Phillips is likely to find himself as the 6th choice. However, in the build-up to the first league game of the season, he already finds himself with an outside chance of game-time with Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan struggling for fitness and Dejan Lovren only returning to training on Monday. Clearly, this won’t be the case for every game, but with all of these and Joe Gomez having injury problems at points in the last couple of seasons, Phillips may find himself given more unlikely chances to impress.
It would be easy to have omitted Brewster from this list, at 18-years-old, he hasn’t made a senior appearance for Liverpool and hasn’t featured this pre-season due to an injury picked up towards the end of last season. But at the beginning of July, Brewster committed his long-term future to Liverpool and outlined his aims to break into the first-team, with him being told he will be part of the first-team squad once he returns from injury.
Brewster hopes to return from injury soon, so he can begin making an impression on Klopp and realising the potential he showed when starring in England’s Under-17’s World Cup win last summer. Indeed, once he is back to full fitness, Brewster’s path to the first-team may be the easiest of all the possible breakout stars. With Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke struggling to impress during pre-season and Danny Ings looking set to leave the club, Brewster could fancy himself to be 3rd-choice striker by the end of the season, possibly second-choice depending on how Daniel Sturridge’s body holds up throughout the campaign, although usurping Roberto Firmino as first-choice striker may be a step too far.