Liverpool FC : FSG's 'Go Young' Policy To Yield Future Dividends?
Liverpool, in the last 10 years has depended solely on players they bought from the market rather than graduates from the Academy or young signings who graduated from playing for the reserves. Such a policy however, did not seem to be sustainable and is considered to be one of the reasons for Liverpool's downfall in the last few years.
Since taking over in October, NESV, or the FSG, their British arm has openly spoken about developing a youth system and targeting young players.
FSG believes that 'Go Young' is the policy that would help Liverpool get back to the top in the next 4-5 years. And there has been positives in that direction - In the potential of Academy graduates, youngsters signed in the last 2-3 years and the youngsters being targeted.
This slide show concentrates on some of those youngsters and the challenges before Liverpool with regard to managing young talent.
The Academy Graduates
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The late 90s saw the Liverpool academy producing great talent in the form of Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Jamie Carragher. That production line however had seemed to dry up in the last few years. But in the last 2-3 years, there has been a buzz about the quality of the youth being produced by the Academy.
Considered to be one of the most exciting prospects for Liverpool, he has been a revelation this season with strong performances against Chelsea and Manchester United in the absence of Glen Johnson. Though he prefers to play CB, he is starting his career as another Liverpool great - Jamie Carragher at RB. One of the few players who at 20 years of age, seems to be ready for first team football.
A striker signed from Bury in 2005, Eccleston is highly rated, which can be confirmed by the fact that he has already made seven senior team appearances for Liverpool. He has spent a loan spell at Huddersfield last year and is bound for another loan spell at Charlton Athletic for the latter part of this season. A player with great pace, he can play both as a central striker as well as a support striker drifting in from the flanks. Liverpool would definitely want to hold on to such an exciting prospect.
One of the few survivors of the Youth Cup triumphs of 2006 and 2007, the Central Midfielder has been on the fringes of the first team for the past couple of years. Though not the most talented player to have graduated from the academy , he certainly is one of the most hard-working and determined players whenever he steps on the field. A prospect, given a boost of confidence by being included by Hodgson in the 25 man squad, he certainly can provide that bit of hardworking defensive support to the defense under pressure.
The Rafa Youngster Signings
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Rafael Benitez, as soon as he entered the club, made youngsters one of his priorities. When the media was focusing on highlighting Rafa's failed signings, Rafa was working behind the scenes with the Liverpool scouts to get the best young talent from across the world to Liverpool, a fact not well-known.
So, this list consists of youngsters signed for Liverpool and have made an impact in the Liverpool Youth and the reserves teams.
Considered to be the next big striker for Liverpool coming from Spain after Torres, he was easing into the first team under Rafael Benitez. A product of the famed youth academy of Barcelona, he emulated Torres when he top scored in the U-19 European Championship in 2010. He was expected to play more first-team football this season, but under Hodgson, he did not get too many opportunities, a fact that started rumors of him reconsidering his future at Liverpool. He however, committed his future to Liverpool and hopefully should be getting more playing time under Kenny Dalglish.
A defender, who can play both as a left-back and in the center, followed David N'gog from Paris St. Germain in 2009. His signing was considered a coup of sorts since teams like Arsenal were also interested, a team supposedly preferred by youngsters from France. He was also a part of the European Championship winning France U-19 side that beat Spain in the finals. The only shortcoming seems to be his need to bulk up as he is considered too thin for a defender. He had openly spoken against Hodgson's treatment of foreign-born youngsters some months back and would be happy to see King Kenny in-charge.
Ever since joining from Southend in 2009, this towering 6 feet 4 striker has made an immediate impact on the youth squad. Along with his height, which is an advantage, he also possesses great ability to run with the ball and create chances for his team mates. Just 19 years of age, he does need to play more football with the Reserves before challenging for the first team. Though initially prone to making mistakes often, he has improved a great deal this season. He can be a great prospect, possessing the rare combination of height and great ball skills.
The Recent Signings
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When Liverpool was facing turmoil in the summer of 2010, it was a particularly good time for the youth signings made, with three great signings.
The England U19 captain, he has already been compared to Steven Gerrard early in his career. He was signed from Charlton Athletic in the summer for £1.7 million, where he had become the youngest player and scorer for the team by scoring 8 goals in his 49 appearances. Only 18 years of age, he has already made 10 appearances for Liverpool in the half season he has spent at the club, giving some impressive performances along the way. He certainly seems to be a player destined to dominate the central midfield both for Liverpool and England for a long time to come.
The young central defender from Scotland, at 19 years of age has already won the Scottish League and the Scottish Cup as a part of the successful Glasgow Rangers team. He is also one of the few 19 year olds who can claim to have experience in the Champions League, when at 17 years of age, he became the youngest player to represent Rangers against Unirea Urziceni. He has only made fleeting appearances in the League Cup and Europa matches for Liverpool, but he has been impressing everyone with his defending in the Reserves and can expect to make the jump to first team football soon.
Jesús Fernández Sáez
Jesús Fernández Sáez, known to everyone as Suso, was signed from Cadiz CF. Only 17 years of age, he is a striker with a lot of skill and creativity, amply displayed in his solo goal against Newcastle United Reserves. He has recently signed a contract to remain to Liverpool till 2013.
Signed from QPR in March 2010, Liverpool pulled off a major coup by signing this 15-year old youngster, being scouted by almost all big clubs including Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal. Possessing great pace, he is rated equivalent to what Wayne Rooney was rated at 15 years of age. Signed at just £250000, he could turn out be the standout bargain signing made by Liverpool.
The Prospective Signings
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Liverpool ever since the takeover by NESV, have become even more aggressive in their hunt for talented youngsters. Liverpool now, like Arsenal are being increasingly linked to top rated youngsters across the globe. Lets look at the three prospective signings that are in the pipeline right now, three youngsters who are attracting the attention of top clubs from across Europe.
From the same club, Southampton, that produced fast-paced players like Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale, comes another youngster, who is considered by many to be better than Theo Walcott was at the same stage. Liverpool are battling Arsenal and Manchester United for the signing of this England U18 international. Possessing great pace, he is generally used as a winger by Southampton.
The young 17 year old has already played 76 times for his Belgian club Anderlecht, netting 33 times in the process and also earned a call-up to the Belgian national team in February 2010. Rated at £20 million, he has seen interest from clubs all over Europe including Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Chelsea. He possesses the physical strength as well as athleticism needed to excel at the top level, which has resulted in him being dubbed the next Drogba.
Another Belgian youngster, who plays in Ligue 1 in France for Lille. He already has over 100 matches under his belt for Lille and would prefer to move outside France. He has been personally recommended by Zidane for Real Madrid. He has openly spoken about his preference for Arsenal, buoyed by success of youngsters under Arsene Wenger. However, Liverpool and Manchester United are also said to be interested in the Lille winger.
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Liverpool have over-performed in the youngster signing department vis-a-vis their record of giving opportunities to young talent. One of the reasons that the youngsters prefer a club like Arsenal is the tendency of Arsene Wenger to promote young talent.
Liverpool, having secured such a talented bunch should try to do its best to keep them at the club, with the talented ones being given enough opportunities to graduate to the senior team.
Having such talent at their disposal, a manger with a style similar to Arsene Wenger might be required, who believes in their talent. Roy certainly did not do so. However, to be fair to him, he was facing a much bigger problem. If the initial indications are anything to go by, the Pachecos, Kellys and Shelveys are expected to get more opportunities under Kenny Dalglish's leadership.
Hoping that this talented bunch is able to get Liverpool out of its current slump and serve the club for a long time.
There might have been some names overlooked in this list or some names which some people might not agree with. Would love to hear about the same from the Bleacher Report community.