Liverpool asked a lot of Curtis Jones for him to make his Champions League debut in one of Europe’s most iconic stadiums to showcase a huge trust of faith from the teenager’s manager.
Jones, 19, stepped up with Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita both unavailable due to fitness concerns, and it was an encouraging display from the academy graduate.
The West Derby midfielder in the space of a year, has been handed debuts in the two biggest competitions in club football. It was only 12 months ago that Jones was captaining the under-19’s side during a UEFA Youth League clash against RB Salzburg.
His first European start was perfectly timed, and well-executed alongside James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum. Jones clocked up 45 minutes of action before being replaced by club captain Jordan Henderson at half-time.
He handled the challenge put in front of him very well, and impressed manager Klopp. The Liverpool boss confirmed that his decision to alternate between Jones and Henderson was purely from a tactical viewpoint.
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Klopp told the club’s official website: “Curtis was tactical. The medical department told us Hendo cannot start and then it was pretty clear 45 should be possible.
“That’s why Hendo came on and then we wanted the experience and a midfield that at least played a few times together, which helps in a game like this.”
Klopp is a big believer in Jones. He has already clocked up six appearances this season across four different competitions as the young scouser looks to be on a similar career path to that of Premier League Young Player of the Year, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
He has had to be patient for his opportunity. Jones was touted for greatness for some time during his rise from the academy having starred as the cornerstone of Steven Gerrard’s U18 side before progressing to the senior set-up at Melwood in the latter stages of the 2017/18 season where the teenager made his Premier League debut during a goalless stalemate with Everton in April 2018.
Since his introduction to the team, Jones has since remained at Melwood with the first team although opportunities didn’t materialise straight from the off.
Unlike his fellow academy graduateAlexander-Arnold, Jones was more of a slow-burner in terms of his rise to the first team.
He took the slower route to get Klopp’s attention having burst onto the scene at 17 only to take an added one-two years to learn just what is required to cut it at the top.
This has given Klopp a lot to consider, all positive. If Jones didn’t play well, then it would have been understandable, on his first game on the world’s biggest platform.
Instead, he handled it well, and has shown he is a top-quality option which Liverpool can trust. Overall, he completed two dribbles, had one shot on target and enjoyed a pass success rate of 89% according to WhoScored.
Following his debut, Jones took to social media to celebrate a vital team victory as well his first taste of Champions League action.
He received an outpour of messages from a number of teammates both past and present. Liverpool youngsters such as Jake Cain and Rhys Williams all sent responses to Jones with the latter also coming off the bench to make his Champions League debut for the Reds.
Jones even had a response from Borussia Dortmund wonderkid Jude Bellingham, who took the time to congratulate his fellow England under-21’s star.
Rhian Brewster and Harvey Elliott also commented on Jones’ Instagram post.
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