With his second significant contribution in as many games this preseason in the form of a goal against Roma, it’s high time that we at TLO and our fellow blogerati begin to pile the superlatives on the budding Sheyi Ojo.
After earning plaudits with his classy performances for England at this year’s U19 Euros, the pacy wide man joined up with the first team squad looking to further showcase his fine form.
A second half introduction against AC Milan sparked a listless match, with Ojo looking very much the danger man as he capped his performance with a deflected assist to Firmino to seal the victory.
With two preseason games left against Barcelona and Klopp’s old team, Mainz, one might reasonably assume that further impressive cameos from the academy graduate will hand the German manager a bit of a dilemma: would both Ojo and the squad benefit more from the player going out or loan or staying in the first team, even in a season without European competition?
While the manager clearly rates the youngster, declaring his future to be "100% at Liverpool" , the depth of attacking talent makes it’s hard to see Ojo finding regular time on the pitch outside of the cup competitions.
What about a loan to a Championship side? Such is Ojo’s class that the 75% playing time stipulation Klopp has smartly pushed for in recent loan moves might not even need to be negotiated in this case: his talent alone demands game time.
However, such were his performances in his stint in the lower leagues at Wolverhampton last season, that one almost gets the sense that he has outgrown the lesser sides and that he requires weightier challenges to continue his development.
An attractive middle option is the new Premier League 2 competition debuting this season. As a replacement for the old U21 system, the limit will be raised to U23 to allow academy players a chance experience a level of play closer to that of the top flight.
It would almost certainly provide better development potential for young Ojo than a move to a Championship club, giving him both the game time needed while also making him more readily available for first team action in the event of an injury crisis.
Yes, the narrative might sound familiar to the fans: a pacy, exciting winger emerges from the academy, seemingly destined for greatness. However, we unironically insist that this time, it’s different.
Unlike Raheem Sterling and Jordan Ibe, fellow wide men graduates to regular first team action before him, Ojo possess an elegance and craftiness that adds an interesting dimension to his play besides simply pace.
Wherever Ojo ends up this season, one, of course must be sure to wheel out the usual cautions that at 19 years of age, he must be allowed the time, space and circumstances to properly develop. But with this one’s potential, you can forgive us a little excitement.