Liverpool: 5 Most Promising Young Players
There's no question that Liverpool's youth academy has failed to produce players of outstanding quality in recent years. Since Steven Gerrard made his way into the first team in 1998, no academy graduate has seen sustained success at the club.
However, things look as though they're about to change.
Currently plying their trade in the Liverpool youth setup, on the reserve team or out on loan, the are more than enough quality young players ready to break through over the next few seasons. The first-team performances of Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom over the past year demonstrate that the club has turned around the fortunes of its academy.
The following five players represent the cream of Liverpool's academy crop, each one seemingly possessing more than enough talent to make an impact at the top level.
In order to shine the light more directly at those players still to fully graduate from the academy ranks, anyone that has already seen significant playing time in the first team has been disqualified from inclusion on this list.
Players that fall into this category include Andre Wisdom, Raheem Sterling and Suso.
A Merseyside local, Jack Dunn is increasingly being seen as the greatest of Liverpool's young prospects. Having captained the U16 and U18 teams, the 18-year-old is expected to play a significant role for the U21s this season.
Dunn endured a difficult time in 2012, having to watch from the sidelines with a hamstring injury. However, he marked his return to the U18s with six goals from six games in the FA Youth Cup.
He ended the 2012/13 season with nine appearances for the U21s.
It's Dunn's instincts that are most impressive, a facet of his game that he has improved by playing on the wing, as a forward and as a left-back—although he is generally considered an attack-minded midfielder.
Playing across the pitch seems to have improved his understanding of the game and, as a result, he plays with a composed maturity that is beyond his years.
Dunn has also featured for England at the U17 and U18 level.
Acquired from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2012, 19-year-old Samed Yesil has been incredibly impressive for Liverpool at U21 level.
Yesil scored four times in his first five games for the U21s last season, before his year was cut short thanks to an injury. The striker only returned from injury earlier this season, appearing for the U21s on 7 October in a 5-0 win over Tottenham—a game in which only the post denied him a goal.
It's not only for Liverpool that Yesil has been in fine goalscoring form.
In 33 games for Germany across U16, U17, U18 and U19 level, Yesil has bagged himself 31 goals. Eight of those have come from seven appearances at U19 level.
The only real question mark over Yesil's future contribution is whether or not he has completely overcome his injury issue.
Brought into Liverpool's academy in 2011, 19-year-old Ryan McLaughlin is fast looking to be the player that will eventually replace Glen Johnson at right-back.
The Northern Irishman has spoken of his admiration for Barcelona's Dani Alves (per LiverpoolFC.com), a player whom he tries to emulate on the pitch through his willingness to attack and committed tackling style.
With Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly also in the mix for a first-team place in Liverpool's defence, there's no question that McLaughlin must continue to prove himself capable if he is to get his chance at the top level.
However, McLaughlin is a very different player to both Wisdom and Kelly and a much more natural fit to play as a modern, attacking full-back.
McLaughlin made his first senior appearance in 2012, playing the first-half in a pre-season friendly against AS Roma during a tour of the USA—a game in which he was asked to mark the talismanic figure that is Francesco Totti.
Following 21 appearances for the U21s last season, McLaughlin signed a new three-year contract in July 2013.
Possibly the most likely player on this list to make an impact on Liverpool's first-team, Jordon Ibe was named Player of the Season for Liverpool's U21s last season.
Prying to that, Ibe played 60 minutes against QPR in the final game of the Premier League 2012/13 season—capping his performance with an assist for Philippe Coutinho's goal.
While Ibe clearly possesses the physical skills to make the cut, Liverpool's head of development analysis, Tim Jenkins, believes that he needs to improve his attacking positioning and is capable of making better use of his speed (per, LiverpoolFC.com).
Expect to see Ibe make a number of appearances from the bench for Liverpool this season.
Joao Carlos Teixeira
The oldest player on this list, 20-year-old Teixeira joined Liverpool from Sporting Lisbon during the January 2012 transfer window.
After spending the remainder of the 2011/12 season recovering from a back injury, Teixeira has since established himself as a key member of the U21 squad.
With an uncanny ability to see a pass, and an even more impressive ability to pull it off, Teixeira is seen as a playmaking midfielder that specialises in providing assists and carving open a defence from outside the box.
Teixeira went on loan to League One side Brentford in September of this year. However, he returned to Liverpool only one month later as a result of Brentford manager Uwe Rosler being unable to guarantee him first-team football.
Speaking to London's local GetWestLondon, Rosler explained the decision to send Teixeira back to Liverpool:
"The timing of Jaoa [sic] coming here was probably a little bit unfortunate, our game is not flowing like it was in pre-season. It will come again, but at the moment we're in a bit of a battle.
"To bring a player like him in at this stage, it is difficult for him to show his potential, and we didn't want him to get frustrated."
Liverpool will be hoping he can show that potential closer to home.
With so many promising young players in Liverpool's youth ranks, it would be remiss to not at least mention some of the other players with real potential to make the leap to the senior team in the future.
The following players fall into that category and worthy of attention:
Conor Coady (picture above right, on loan to Sheffield United for remainder of 2013)
Position: Defence / Midfield
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