Dominic Chandler (@Frankly2Shankly)
Liverpool have a history of producing and developing precocious talents. Academy graduates Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen, and Robbie Fowler are just some examples.
That conveyer-belt of promising prospects somewhat stalled upon the turn of the century. However, the emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold as one of Europe’s finest full backs has sparked renewed optimism for the next generation. The Premier League’s Young Player of the Year has shown the likes of Curtis Jones, Rhian Brewster and Neco Williams that there is a clear pathway to the senior set-up.
But a willingness to promote from within has yielded mixed results over the past ten years. In a list that contains six full internationals, here’s a look at the ex-academy graduates who made their senior Liverpool debut in the last decade. So, where are they are now?
Best remembered for his goal vs Tottenham, he became a regular starter under Brendan Rodgers during Liverpool’s 2014 title tilt. Capped for England that year, the defender endured lengthy spells on the sidelines for much of the next two seasons. Deemed surplus to requirements by Klopp, Flanagan signed for Steven Gerrard’s Rangers in 2018.
The son of former Red Paul, Ince left Liverpool in 2011 with just one senior appearance to his name. The winger has played for seven different clubs since, including three unsuccessful spells in the Premier League. Named as the best young player in the Football League in 2013, the 28-year-old currently plays for Championship side Stoke.
The forward made his Liverpool debut in a Europa League qualifying match in 2010 – it turned out to be his only outing in Liverpool red. After loans in the lower leagues, Amoo joined Preston just two years later. Now at the age of 29, the ex-Tranmere Rovers attacker plies his trade in the fourth tier of English football.
Arguably the brightest talent Liverpool have developed in a decade, Sterling was signed from QPR at the age of 15. Quickly rising through the ranks, he made his first-team debut just two years later and became one of the hottest prospects in Europe. Fast becoming a star for both club and country, the winger made a £49m move to Manchester City in 2015.
A former star with AC Milan, the Spanish international never quite forced his way in at Liverpool. His initial youth team exploits catalysed a sense of expectation, and he went on to feature 20 times in his first season under Rodgers. However, it was during the Northern Irishman’s reign that he departed in 2015. The Spaniard became a Europa League champions with Sevilla this month.
The Liverpool-born academy product started his career as a midfielder, making his professional bow in the Europa League vs Anzhi in 2012. Coady went on to make just one further outing for the Reds, before joining Huddersfield in 2014. The ex-Liverpool U21 captain is now a key cog in a back three system utilised by high-flying Wolves and has just received his first call up for England.
Already a first-teamer for Wycombe at 16, Ibe was signed in 2011. His swift progression through the youth set-up saw him make his debut just 18 months later. Earmarked as the next breakthrough star, the winger never lived up to his billing. He was recently released by Bournemouth following a disastrous £15m move in 2016.
Another youngster blooded by Rodgers early in his tenure, the former England U21 captain played 19 times in his first season in the senior side. His promising progress faded though, so four successive loan spells followed. One of those stints was at Derby County, where he still plays today.
Liverpool snapped up the striker when he was just 14, and after five impressive years in the youth set-up he made his league debut in 2015. The following season he scored his first professional goal, but that was followed by a £4m move to Watford just a few months later. Now 23, he’s yet to nail down a first team place with the Hornets.
The striker’s prolific form at youth-level for his native Reds earned him a first team debut as a teenager in 2012. However, that’s effectively where his Liverpool story ends. Stints in the Championship, League One, League Two and even in non-league football followed over the resulting eight years.
The Australian left-back played his first game for Liverpool vs Chelsea in 2013, coming on as a substitute in a 2-1 defeat. He was used sparingly by both Rodgers and Klopp in his time in the North-West, despite once being named as the club’s Academy Player of the Year. He joined Ibe at Bournemouth in 2016 but was also released this summer.
João Carlos Teixeira
Signed from Sporting Lisbon in 2012, the Portuguese youth international was an instant hit in the Liverpool academy. Teixeira also impressed out on loan and was Brighton’s Young Player of the Year in 2015. Nonetheless, the midfielder played just two Premier League games for the Reds, before joining Porto in 2016. The 27-year-old now plays for Vitoria de Guimaraes.
Seventeen years after being released by his boyhood club, Lambert made a £4m return to Merseyside in 2014. The ex-academy player made his debut (rather belatedly) at the age of 32, after working his way up the leagues and into the England squad. His sole season at Anfield didn’t run smoothly, although it’s not a move he’s regretted.
The one-time Welsh U21 international managed just one game for the Reds in four years. Following his debut vs Middlesbrough in the League Cup, he went out on loan to Notts County, Swindon Town and then Rochdale before leaving the club in 2018. Williams recently signed for Blackpool.
Born in Liverpool, a 17-year-old Rossiter burst onto the first-team scene with a goal vs ‘Boro in the League Cup in 2014. Despite that strike making him the club’s second youngest ever goal-scorer at the time, the injury-hit midfielder struggled to hold down a place in the team. He moved to Rangers in 2016 and now plays for Fleetwood Town.
After 13 impressive years in the academy,the midfielder was another player tipped for the top (even Barcelona were rumoured to have shown interest). Klopp gave the Mancunian his first start against Bournemouth in the League Cup, but he only went on to make a further eight appearances for Liverpool. He joined Oxford United in January 2018.
The tricky winger only ever featured once for the Reds, having played most of his football out on loan. He impressed during his time at Coventry and Barnsley but struggled at Freiburg the following season. However, under the guidance of Steven Gerrard, the 23-year-old has found his feet at Rangers. A star in Scotland, he’s been linked with a move to Leeds this month.
Signed from Wrexham in 2012, the stopper fine-tuned his skills between the sticks in the youth set-up before a promotion to the first team. The Welsh international caught the eye with loan spells at Aberdeen and Huddersfield but ultimately failed to climb his way up the goalkeeping ladder at Anfield. He was sold to Leicester in 2018 for £12.5m but has never made a league appearance for the Foxes.
The right-back was often in the first-team picture during Klopp’s maiden campaign at the club but featured just once the following year. After successive loan spells away from Anfield, Randall left for Bulgarian side Arda Kardzhali last year. The 24-year-old is now on the books at Ross County.
The defender was first drafted into Klopp’s side following an injury crisis in January 2016. The Englishman made what turned out to be his only outing for the side vs Exeter City, coming on as a substitute in the FA Cup clash. Now 24, he plays for League One side Accrington Stanley.
Formerly part of the youth set-up in Barcelona, Liverpool brought him to England in 2013. Just 16 upon his arrival, the attacker only went on to feature once in the Premier League. The Spanish youth international was sold to Brentford in 2017, aster impressing in a previous loan spell with the Championship outfit. He’s now played over 100 games for the club.
His showings for Valencia’s youth team attracted interest from all around Europe, so when Liverpool signed him in 2013, it was quite the coup. His breakthrough came in the 2015-2016 campaign where the Spaniard made five appearances for the Reds. However, after a string of loans away from Anfield, the midfielder ultimately failed to break into the first team and left for Nantes in June.
Liverpool added the Portuguese youth international to their academy in 2016, with the winger arriving from Sporting Lisbon. The youngster’s versatility saw him make his senior debut last year, but it turned out to be just one of two outings for the club. Following Camacho’s sale for a reported £7m last summer, he’s now back at Sporting CP.
Signed from Arsenal’s youth team in 2014, the midfielder featured in eight games across three competitions during Klopp’s debut season. An U20 World Cup winner in 2017, Ejaria is another player who has spent the last few years out on loan. The 22-year-old has just made his move to Reading a permanent one for a reported £3.5m.