Days after his arrival as Liverpool manager at the beginning of October, Jurgen Klopp signalled his intention to focus on youth development at the club, saying "the door is wide open for [young players]," in a statement that will have buoyed the Reds' academy ranks. One such player is Pedro Chirivella.
"When I am managing a club I think each young player should smile, because the door is wide open for him," Klopp told the Guardian's Paul Wilson, before referencing the successful progress of Robert Lewandowski at his former club, Borussia Dortmund:
[A determined young player] has the chance to do anything. I don’t care so much about experience, it can be important but it is not the main thing. The best players in the world today are around already, you can see them. What I enjoy more is trying to identify the best players of tomorrow, who has the capacity to improve himself most, to take a young player from a small club in Poland and see what he can turn into.
Klopp gave Chirivella his full Liverpool debut at the beginning of February, with the Spanish midfielder lining up in a youthful selection as the Reds fell to a 2-1 defeat to West Ham United in the FA Cup, and the manager will have been pleased to see his prodigious young star excel.
This was the next step in a promising journey for Chirivella at Liverpool—but who is the 18-year-old, and what can he offer the club in the future?
Arrival at Liverpool
Chirivella signed for Liverpool in 2013, making the move to Merseyside after progressing through the youth ranks at Valencia to join his fellow Spaniard Sergi Canos—who joined the Reds from Barcelona the same summer.
After a season spent in the Reds' under-18s ranks, Chirivella was part of a seven-strong group, including Canos, Kevin Stewart, Sheyi Ojo and Harry Wilson, to sign his first professional contract with the club the following summer.
The midfielder made seven appearances for Liverpool's under-21s in 2014/15, as well as five games in the UEFA Youth League, but his campaign was derailed by a series of injuries.
Nevertheless, Liverpool scout David Vizcaino was effusive in his praise of Chirivella at the end of last season, telling Spanish publication Marca (h/t the Mirror) that the 18-year-old had the talent to "revolutionise" English football:
In very little time we will see Pedro Chirivella, Sergi Canos or Madger [Gomes] in the first team, and some of them playing regularly.
Just talking about Pedro Chirivella gives me goosebumps. In England there would have to be 100 Pedro Chirivellas in order to revolutionise English football.
Chirivella is football, he is intelligence, control, technique, personality. I expect great things from him.
As Vizcaino identified, Chirivella is a player of immense potential, and former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers recognised this when he included the Spaniard in his squad for the Reds' pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia.
Chirivella was joined by fellow youngsters Ryan Fulton, Joe Gomez, Daniel Cleary, Joe Maguire, Jordan Rossiter, Ryan Kent, Ojo and Wilson in gaining valuable experience alongside the club's first-team stars.
After making his first appearance in a 1-1 draw with a Malaysia XI, Chirivella was introduced as a second-half substitute in Liverpool's 2-0 friendly win away to HJK Helsinki on their return to Europe.
This served as a primer for Chirivella ahead of the 2015/16 campaign, and after being given his full debut this month, the ex-Valencia man looks set for stardom.
Able to play at the base of the midfield or further forward, Chirivella has spent most of his short spell at Liverpool so far operating in a role best described as the traditional No. 6—somewhere between Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets.
Interviewed by Liverpool's official website in 2014, Chirivella listed Zinedine Zidane as his footballing inspiration, while in June, he took to Twitter to pay homage to "the magic duo" of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
As witnessed in his display against West Ham, Chirivella is a lithe, nimble central midfielder, both confident in possession and effective off the ball.
While he was unable to influence the FA Cup tie directly, in terms of goals and assists, he was one of Klopp's best performers, as This is Anfield's Henry Jackson attested in his post-match player ratings.
"He didn't look remotely out of place in tough surroundings," Jackson wrote. "The teenage Spaniard was eye-catching in possession and solid when it came to his defensive work, and he should feel extremely proud of his first-ever Reds start."
Operating alongside Stewart, who was deployed as a defensive midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Chirivella looked to dictate play from deep, in a role similar to that of another of his inspirations: former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso.
"In the first team obviously Steven Gerrard is the person I have to admire, because he's been everything here at Liverpool," he told The Redmen TV's Paul Machin in an interview at the club's Melwood training facility in 2014.
"For me, my idol has always been Xabi Alonso—he used to play here as well and, for me, [is] someone I have to look up to because he's brilliant."
What was most striking about Chirivella's performance against the Hammers was the youngster's authority on the field; constantly demanding the ball, keeping his head up and communicating with his team-mates.
At the Boleyn Ground, the Spaniard showcased his tactical intelligence and technical finesse. Speaking to reporters, including the Liverpool Echo's Andy Kelly, after the game, Klopp acknowledged the respect West Ham showed Chirivella, saying: "it's the biggest honour you can get in a game like this that [Mark] Noble got the job to look after you."
Klopp is clearly an admirer of Chirivella's talents, so what role can the midfielder play at Liverpool in the future?
Another player to whom Chirivella has shown similarities in his time at Liverpool is Welsh midfielder Joe Allen, whose dexterity and deep-lying creativity have made him an invaluable squad option since his move from Swansea City in 2012.
Allen was subject to an enquiry from Swansea in January, according to James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo, with Pearce reporting that "the Reds [had] informed them that Allen is going nowhere during the current window."
The 25-year-old is unlikely to remain on Merseyside for the long term, however, as while he enjoyed a resurgence of form at the beginning of 2016, his recurring injury issues could make him expendable to Klopp.
While Liverpool have been linked with moves for both Ilkay Gundogan and Granit Xhaka ahead of the summer transfer window, per reports from Football Insider and Bild (h/t Daily Mirror) respectively, Chirivella could see a route into the first team emerge if Allen departs at the end of the season.
Having showcased his ability against Premier League opposition earlier this month, at 18, Chirivella looks set for a bright future at the top level of English football.
With the door open to him following the arrival of Klopp, the onus is on Chirivella to continue to impress at under-21s level and seize the opportunities provided to him over the coming seasons in the senior side.
At this early stage, Chirivella looks destined to break through into the Liverpool first team in the next three seasons and, in doing so, could emulate his idol Alonso and become a key feature as Klopp looks to build the Reds into a European force once again.
Statistics via Transfermarkt.co.uk.