Curtis Jones is firmly in Liverpool’s first-team plans right now. There’s no going back.
Jurgen Klopp will have Curtis Jones in his big-game plans for the rest of the season. He just has to after a wonderful performance in Budapest.
And that will be a change of plans, really. There’s no way that Liverpool went into this season wanting to use Jones in big games.
But Tuesday was the biggest yet. Jones shone away from home in a UEFA Champions League knockout game – that’s a coming of age.
Because as we discussed after the game, this was a complete performance. Jones was solid defensively – as Liverpool required – and still a threat going forward.
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Doing so under such pressure and in a make-shift midfield is remarkable. There are very, very few 20-year-olds capable of doing that.
But young or not, Jones must be in the plans for the rest of the competition. There’s no going back from here.
The Scouser has forced his way into a pecking order that features Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner and Thiago. We didn’t see that coming quite so soon.
Jones’s performance against RB Leipzig proved that nothing he’s done this season is a fluke and that Liverpool can trust him in high-pressure games. They can trust him to play well and influence things, in fact.
That’s another level to most players.
The really scary thing, though, is that this is still just the beginning. Jones has progressed from ‘small squad role’ to ‘reliable Champions League starter’ since September.
Where’s he going to be by May? He’s developing further with every game and we could see him as a first-choice player before long.
We don’t know if he’ll hit that mark by May – Liverpool have some very good midfielders – but we’d be shocked if Jones isn’t at that level by 2022.
His rise has been remarkable to watch. Tuesday was another milestone and right now, he feels like a potential superstar.