Joseph Kavaloski explains how Jurgen Klopp is repeating his youth plans that were seen at Borussia Dortmund at Liverpool.
As Jurgen Klopp’s impact on Liverpool begins to permeate throughout the club, one interesting area to examine is the youth setup. Klopp has made it a key point to build the squad through the academy rather than supplement through transfers. This is an idealistic strategy to implement, but Klopp’s excellent reputation with young players makes it viable.
Even though Klopp has been at the club for only slightly more than a year, numerous academy products have graduated to the first team. Kevin Stewart, Sheyi Ojo, Ovie Ejaria, and Connor Randall have all earned full-time places in the first team. This is an excellent start as other youngsters such as Cameron Brannagan and Pedro Chirivella have also featured in senior matches.
Although the Reds have the financial resources to not need a solid youth setup, the same cannot be said of Borussia Dortmund. The German club may be one of the best clubs in Europe, but they have accomplished this through player development rather than expensive transfers. From all indications, Klopp’s intentions at Anfield are similar.
In Klopp’s first two seasons at Dortmund, six players were added to the first team from the academy. The Reds are on pace to achieve at least that number by the end of 2016/17, a clear illustration of Klopp’s long-term intentions.
During the German’s second season at the Westfalenstadion, eleven players were brought in to the U23 and U19 sides. Again, Klopp is doing similar for the Reds as he has already added two youngsters to the U23 team this season with intentions to add more.
Juanma Garcia recently moved to Merseyside from the famed Barcelona academy and has already established himself at right back in the U23s. Klopp has clearly taken well to the Spaniard’s performances at Kirkby as he has since ordered the club’s chief Portuguese and Spanish scout to look at four intriguing youngsters in Barcelona.
In addition to the Reds’ interest in Barcelona’s B team, the club also recently added another very talented youngster in the form of 15-year-old center back Emeka Obi. Tabbed as the best 15-year-old in all of England standing at a towering 6’5” with already a senior appearance under his belt, Obi is yet another promising addition to Liverpool’s academy.
Garcia and Obi are unlikely to make an impact in the near future, but both players are obvious examples of the club’s scouts finding good young talent. At Dortmund, Klopp was able to develop multiple first team players (Mario Gotze, Marcel Schmelzer, Antonio Rudiger) and his approach at Liverpool is turning out to be very similar.
Many of Liverpool’s youngsters will ultimately fail to reach the level required of a first team regular, but early results suggest that there could be as many as ten youth players at Melwood by the end of this season. Having no European competitions has limited opportunities for these academy players, but strong U23 performances have allowed Ovie Ejaria to already debut in the EFL Cup.
Dortmund’s limited financial resources forced Klopp to build through youth at the Westfalenstadion and despite Liverpool’s superiority in this area, the German intends to implement a similar strategy. The success of this idea will not be determined in the short term, but the club is certainly on the right track.
Multiple youngsters have already made their way into the first team and even though they may not be the next Mario Gotze, each has a valuable role to play. Liverpool is a club built on the success of its academy with Steven Gerrard as the most recent example. Klopp’s vision certainly intends to revitalise this aspect of the club and so far he has been extremely successful in doing so.