Liverpool FC: 10 Youth Players the Reds Are Excited About
As the excitement builds towards the weekend encounter with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Kenny Dalglish's men know that they must secure critical points against their top four rivals if they are to prove themselves worthy of a title run.
More realistic however, is the notion that the club is a year or two away from challenging for the Premiership or European glory. As part of that process of preparing for the future, the club has ramped up its focus on developing the quality of its youth program.
Not all of these players will be ready to contribute in two years, but nonetheless, here is a list of 10 such players about whom the Reds are excited.
10. Marc Pelosi
For whatever it's worth, the 17-year-old Pelosi is widely regarded as the brightest young, current American prospect.
Named captain of this past summer’s US U-17 Youth World Cup team, the talented midfielder has already scored eight goals in 28 appearances for his US U-17 team.
9. David Amoo
Liverpool signed Amoo away from Millwall in 2007 and promoted him to the reserves two years later, following a 12-goal second campaign at the Academy. His impressive rise continued under Roy Hodgson, who gave him his competitive debut on July 29, 2010 in a Europa League qualifier against Rabotnicki.
In January 2011, Amoo went on a one-month loan spell with MK Dons before joining Hull City for the rest of the 2010-11 season. He returned to Melwood in July 2011 before leaving again on loan to Bury in September 2011.
Just eight days later he would open his account for Bury by scoring in the Football League 1 defeat of Yoevil town. While he still needs some polish and edge to his game, expectations remain high for the young striker.
8. Krisztian Adorjan
Adorjan started slowly for the Reds after arriving at the Academy from MTK Hungaria in the summer of 2009. Since then, he has worked hard at becoming physically stronger so as to better adjust to the English game.
He has also grown quite a bit in confidence, in part due to having captained his country at various levels, and in part due to his flair and penchant for spectacular goals..
Adorjan is an attacking player who likes to play just off the front man. Now physically stronger, he was a major player in the U18 side in 2010-11, scoring eight goals and providing 19 assists.
7. Andre Wisdom
A physically imposing player, Wisdom often surprises many with his skill with the ball at his feet. He calls to mind the Manchester City pair of Micah Richards and Vincent Kompany in that regard, and it is an element of his game that was not accidental in the making.
In an effort to help him avoid an over-reliance on his size and speed, the Academy staff often played him on the right side and centrally in midfield, allowing him to become more proficient in possession, while developing an appreciation for the action higher up the pitch.
He was a key member of the England team that won the European U17 Championship in the summer of 2010, and made his England U-19 debut this season.
He even took on the role of captain when fellow Red Jonjo Shelvey was subbed off in one game, a testament perhaps to the other intangibles he brings on the field.
6. Michael Ngoo
Signed from Southend United in September 2009, Ngoo is a 6'4" striker with the ability to run at defenders and create both for himself and for others. Such is his talent that he finished last season’s campaign as the U18's second-top scorer with 15 goals, despite missing much of the season with injury.
He was included in the England U20 World Cup squad in Colombia, and is also currently featuring for the U-19 team, playing the role of both central and support striker.
His pace and creativity are natural assets which should see him soon rewarded with first team appearances.
5. Wilfried Zaha
This player doesn't really fall into the category of "youth player" in the sense that he isn't a current member of the reserves or Academy, but he's noteworthy as a talented young player on whom the Reds have their eyes.
Voted the Young Player of the Year by his current club, Crystal Palace, Zaha is quickly becoming one of the most prized young players in the English game with Newcastle United and Bayern Munich reportedly vying with the Reds for his signature.
A natural right-winger who can also play the role of striker, the speed and nimble feet of the Ivorian-born English international make him a constant terror to opposing defenses.
The fact that he only has three goals in 56 first team appearances for Palace notwithstanding, he’s equally adept at creating for himself and for teammates. Such is his promise that he’s included here as the sole transfer target among the lot.
Two other young transfer targets of note are the Dortmund pair of Mario Götze and Shinji Kagawa, who were separately profiled in a previous article. Not to say that he is rated ahead of these two, but Zaha’s potential makes him an equally promising, if not more realistic target.
Jesús Fernández Sáez, aka Suso, officially arrived at Melwood from Cadiz CF in the summer of 2010. A natural left-sided midfielder, the young Spaniard possesses extraordinary talent on the ball and has a good shot, but it is perhaps his vision and passing which distinguishes him from the field.
He can also be deployed as an attacking or holding midfielder. While he’s not the quickest of players, his excellent close control of the ball and nimble mind allows him to create chances for teammates like few others can.
He has already made an a preseason appearance with the first team against Borussia Moenchengladbach. Being four days shy of his 18th birthday, he has the benefit of time and youth on his side, which should see him become a fixture at Anfield well into the near future.
3. Conor Coady
The England U17 and Liverpool U18 captain is another of those players whose names seemed to be whispered along the tree tops in English youth football.
Capable of playing either center back or in central midfield, he has drawn comparisons to current Red great Steven Gerrard.
Much of it has to do with his feisty play on the field, composure with the ball in possession and natural leadership qualities. The fact that he is Liverpool-born certainly doesn’t hurt the comparison either.
He has already been named to the first team as an unused substitute in matches against Sparta Prague and Birmingham City, and should he continue to develop along the current trajectory, should prove an able replacement for Gerrard when the time arrives.
2. Jonjo Shelvey
Current England U19 captain Jonjo Shelvey has become one of the most exciting prospects at Anfield since signing from Charlton Athletic for an initial fee of £1.7 million in the summer of 2010.
Profiled earlier as a potential replacement for Steven Gerrard, he holds the Charlton record for youngest ever player and goalscorer at 16 years and 59 days.
He has already been featured as a first team substitute for Liverpool, and is currently enjoying a successful loan spell at Blackpool.
1. Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling is without question the most talked-about player at Liverpool, and that includes first team, Reserves and the Academy.
Still three weeks shy of his 17th birthday, he has already been rewarded with a substitute appearance in the first-team's preseason games at Borussia Moenchengladbach in 2010, and against Vålerenga this past preseason.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of his young career came during a 9-0 FA Youth Cup thrashing of Southend in early 2010, when he scored a quintuplet of goals. He was also a key contributory in helping England reach the U17 World Cup quarterfinals this past summer.
Kenny Dalglish has preached patience and practiced caution in slowly bringing along the meteoric teen. With continued emotional maturity, a dedication to his craft and the sage guidance of the Melwood staff, Sterling may yet affirm himself the prize of the Academy’s youth players.
... among others are several other young players about whose future the Liverpool brass are clearly excited. However they were not included here for both space considerations, as well as the fact that to some extent they are first-team regulars, and not really "youth" players any longer.
Who are some of the other youth players that you would have included on this list?