Liverpool beat Man City and Bayern Munich to 12-goal starlet Pep Lijnders tipped for pre-season

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Liverpool love to take the opportunity to bed in a young player during pre-season, and while the short summer thanks to the winter World Cup in Qatar means this off-season is not as long as would be ideal, Jürgen Klopp will still hope to continue to implement that pathway.

Last season, it was Kaide Gordon who stood out among the young talents, while Tyler Morton went on to play a role at senior level throughout the campaign. Pre-season was also used to develop Harvey Elliott in a new role.

This summer, even though there is only a month in which to prepare for another tightly-packed fixture schedule, there are already eyes on who the next emerging player might be.

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“I think a coach should be judged much more on the young players he brings through,” Klopp’s assistant, Pep Lijnders, said in January. “For example, I spent yesterday morning at the Academy to speak with the coaches and [Academy director] Alex Inglethorpe.

“I really believe in our project looking at our Academy. We look all the time at the Academy. Our U18s played against Burnley in the FA Youth Cup; we had Bobby Clark, Luke Chambers, Stefan Bajcetic. They all stand out.

“I hope they come with us during the pre-season because it is important for them to have a proper pre-season to know exactly how we want to do things.”

Not 18 until February, Bobby Clark, the first name on Lijnders’ lips, has already spent time in first-team training in 2022 and is one of the stand-out names to watch out for at youth level. He could well, as the Dutch coach eluded to, be one to make a splash in pre-season games and, just as, if not more importantly, in training.

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Signed from Newcastle United last summer, Clark scored 12 goals and provided five assists in 28 appearances in his debut season, playing largely for Liverpool’s U18s, and he also scored the winning penalty in the UEFA Youth League shoot-out with highly-rated Belgian side Genk.

Liverpool beat off a host of teams including Manchester City and Bayern Munich to sign him in 2021 after a one-to-one with Klopp helped convince him to put pen to paper. Newcastle United were devastated to lose one of the most highly-rated players in the England youth system, and not least because he is the son of a Magpies legend in Lee Clark.

Capable of playing any of the attacking positions or in midfield, as the likes of Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Fábio Carvalho can, Clark junior has already shown himself to be hugely exciting – a skilful dribbler with a keen eye for a final pass. That Jones, Elliott and others have been trusted with minutes in pre-season and beyond in recent times was pivotal to convincing him on the switch – and it could now be his time to follow in their footsteps before perhaps stepping up to play U23s football regularly next season.

“He is a really exciting player with bags of skill and talent. He could have lit up the stage at St James’ Park but now he has gone to Liverpool and that is a real kick in the teeth,” the Newcastle Chronicle’s chief Newcastle United reporter Lee Ryder told Liverpool.com last summer.

“Bobby was Newcastle’s most promising youngster. Tottenham were in for him, Bayern Munich were at one point, and I heard a host of other top clubs around the continent knew about him – but he decided to go to Liverpool.

“You have always go to be very careful with comparisons but for me – and I do not talk about this lightly – but at the same sort of age, you had a young Paul Gascoigne at Newcastle. The reality is that sort of raw skill reminds me a little bit of Gazza at the same age. ”

Comparisons with former players are not always helpful, but the early signs are that Liverpool have a gifted attacking player with plenty of quality. In Clark, they have their archetypal youngster: someone who can fill a variety of roles in midfield and attack, who works incredibly hard off the ball, and, crucially, who regularly clocks goals and assists.

The talent is there and Lijnders, among others, are big fans. Whether in this pre-season or some time beyond, Liverpool might just have another teenage gem on their hands for Klopp and his staff to polish.

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