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Liverpool Must Loan Youth as English Reserve League Isn’t “a Real Competition”

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Jürgen Klopp isn’t impressed by England’s approach to youth development and has changed his as a result.

International Champions Cup: Liverpool v Barcelona Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

When he first arrived at Liverpool, manager Jürgen Klopp talked about his preference to keep the club’s most talented youngsters around. To have them training with the first team on occasion and, when they weren’t, to play with their potential future teammates in the reserves. Now, the manager admits his thinking has changed.

The main reason for that change is down to the differences between German and English football, differences Klopp has gotten a first-hand look at in his time at the club. Already, it has meant Ryan Kent, Jon Flanagan, Danny Ward, and Ryan Fulton have headed out on loan, with more expected to leave in the coming weeks.

“I’ve learned a lot in the past nine months about British football and the mentality,” Klopp said in an interview with the Liverpool Echo. “In Germany, the U19s championship is a real challenge. It’s really important. They have supporters and a final live on TV. Youth teams can play up to the third division—it’s a real competition.

“Here it’s more like a league made up of friendly games. No crowds. It’s quite different. I don’t want a situation where every week I send someone like Ryan Kent to our second team. He’s in a good way. It would make no sense to keep him in our squad then play there. He’s at an age and in a shape where we should try it on loan.”

It’s quite the change from Klopp’s outlook last season, but given the differences in the way Germany structure their league system to promote youth development to the benefit of their best clubs and the national team versus the way England structure it to protect a perceived sanctity and history of those lower leagues, it makes sense.

Looking at countries like Germany and Spain, it seems clear a major restructuring could benefit not just the top clubs in England but also boost the national team—while ensuring more English youngsters would be capable of earning their spot at top clubs. Yet there seems little institutional will to make the necessary changes.

And so, for now, a club like Liverpool must send their most promising youngsters away. Must try to find homes with likeminded managers who will give them the minutes they need while developing them in ways Liverpool’s coaching staff would approve of. It’s not ideal, but having had time to reflect, Klopp knows it’s necessary.

“There are others who may also go out but there have been no final decisions yet,” Klopp added. “If your mentality is better for staying and you are still a kid then you should stay. We should improve our training and improve the games in terms of creating different situations for them with tournaments here and there.

“But there are some players who were close to the first team who we decided it would be best if they went out on loan.”