Liverpool Builds Homegrown Reserve Corps To Bolster Jurgen Klopp’s Options


December 9, 2015

Jurgen Klopp hasn’t arrived at his first transfer window, but the Liverpool manager already is hard at work on the transaction front.

Liverpool signed Ryan Fulton and Connor Randall to new contracts Wednesday. Fulton, 19, and Randall, 20, are on the fringes of Liverpool’s first team and are unlikely to play many, if any, more competitive games this season. But Liverpool’s decision to offer them fresh terms suggests Klopp has plans to use them in the future.

The same can be said for Cameron Brannagan, a 19-year-old center midfielder, and Brad Smith, a 21-year-old left back. Brannagan and Smith signed new contracts in October and November, respectively.

The amount of playing time the quartet sees over the short, medium or long terms depends on how much of Klopp’s trust they manage to earn with their performances on the practice field. They must be doing something right, because Klopp and his staff decided to extend their contracts after watching them up close for just two months.

Pedro Chirivella, 18, and Joao Carlos Teixeira, 22, also have made small contributions in the early days of Klopp’s tenure. These products of Liverpool’s Academy currently form the core of the reserves upon whom Klopp can call to do a job for the first team.

And we haven’t mentioned Jordan Rossiter, 18, whom some consider the jewel of the recent Academy products. Rossiter’s contract expires after this season, so signing him to a new contract should be a priority.

Should the Reds re-sign Rossiter in the coming months, they’ll have no less than seven Klopp-approved, homegrown players in reserve heading into next season. Jordon Ibe currently is contributing regularly for the first team and has a long-term contract. If Jon Flanagan recovers from long-term injury and plays well enough to earn a new contract with his boyhood club, the number will rise to nine. More will follow.

Klopp’s decision to build his squad from within will boost Liverpool in a number of areas. The young reserves will push current first teamers for playing time and inspire other Academy hopefuls, who are following them. The homegrown players also will be a boon to Liverpool’s recruitment in January and beyond, allowing the club to emphasize quality over quantity as it focuses its resources — salary and transfer fee budgets — on true impact signings.

How Klopp manages his squad will define his Anfield tenure as much as his ongoing balancing act of emotions. Every one that progresses from prospect into serviceable first-team player moves Liverpool in the right direction — whether it happens one-by-one or in groups of two, three or seven.

Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@MelissaReddy_

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