Liverpool’s elite development coach Vitor Matos has spoken out on how the club’s up-and-coming youngsters can leave a lasting impact ahead of the 2020/21 season.
Matos has been part of Jurgen Klopp’s coaching staff during the club’s pre-season trip to Austria where Liverpool are scheduled to play two friendly fixtures against Stuttgart and RB Salzburg.
The 31-year-old coach was brought into the club from FC Porto in October and has been previously been described by Klopp as ‘the connector’.
That specific term comes from Matos’ ability to bridge the gap between the academy and the first team while ensuring that each player is in the appropriate stage for their development – should they be training with the first team? Should they be given a loan move? Does the manager require temporary cover in a certain position?
One player who has recently benefited from the impact of Matos at Liverpool is right back Neco Williams.
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The 19-year-old officially committed his future to Liverpool on Monday after Williams signed a new ‘long-term’ deal with the club while out in Austria for pre-season.
Matos was unsurprisingly delighted for Williams, who since his debut against Arsenal in the League Cup last year has effortlessly made the leap into Klopp’s senior squad.
“Neco has been a really consistent developer, so he was really going step-by-step”, Matos told Liverpool’s official website.
“He is a worker, a real talented worker and player. He has this mentality to learn and to try to learn everything that he can.”
Liverpool’s array of options from the academy have been exceptional in recent years with a host of young talent proving to Klopp that Liverpool have sufficient value inside the club to prevent spending needlessly funds on outside additions.
The club’s academy set-up at Kirkby have effectively saved Liverpool millions following the number of youthful options that Klopp now has at his disposal.
Williams has proven he is the perfect understudy to Trent Alexander-Arnold while Curtis Jones effectively has filled the void left by Adam Lallana following his departure to Brighton.
Talented central defensive duo Ki-Jana Hoever and Sepp van den Berg could also prove to Klopp that Lovren’s £10.9 million move to Zenit St Petersburg doesn’t require the club to buy a replacement and the Dutch duo can step up in his absence.
Billy Koumetio was also among the academy stars among the first team in Salzburg. The young centre back joined Liverpool from Orleans in 2018 and recently signed his first professional contract with the Reds.
Meanwhile, Harvey Elliott and Rhian Brewster are both looking to showcase their credentials with both forwards among the squad in Austria as Klopp considers his options for next season.
Matos has been vocal in what is required to enable young talent to make the grade in a world-class environment and the Portuguese coach listed two determining factors.
“Time and patience are really important when we are talking about development. At the same time, there is no-one better to do it than the manager.”
“All of them [Jones, Williams, Brewster, Elliott, Hoever, Van den Berg, Koumetio] have their own pathways, their own project and their own careers. It’s just the pathway we create allows us to have these players coming up and really being around the first team.
“So you can only take what is good from it and we can say that we are already taking the fruits off the tree that was seeded time ago, so it’s really good.”
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