For any Liverpool fans paying attention to the club during pre-season, the rapid rise so far this year of first Ovie Ejaria and now Ben Woodburn isn’t a surprise. There were times, before the club’s stars returned to the fold, the two looked the best players on the pitch as the team prepared itself for the 2016-17 campaign.
Now, both are drawing interest from multiple national teams. In Ejaria’s case, it’s England, where he was born and who he has represented at the youth level, and Nigeria, where his parents hail from, who are competing for his services. And for Woodburn, it’s England and Wales who are set to compete for his services.
“You’ve got to jump in there whether you’re Chris Coleman or you’re [Gareth] Southgate,” former Liverpool manager Roy Evans said following an evening when Woodburn scored his first senior goal for his club and put his name in the record books as their new youngest ever goalscorer—besting Michael Owen.
“You’ve got to jump on these players when they become available and you think they’re going to be good enough,” Evans, who was an assistant with Wales from 2004 to 2010, continued. “So it’ll be a little war between the two countries, I think, over this young lad, because he is full of talent.”
It may not end up much of a war, though, with Woodburn having represented Wales at every youth level and having gone on record to say he wants to follow in the footsteps of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. And at this rate, he would seem to have a very real chance of joining them at the 2018 World Cup.
Of course, Wales would have to qualify first, which they aren’t currently positioned to do. For all that they impressed at the last Euros, and for all that England regularly underwhelm when it matters most, on the international stage it’s hard to argue the two nations aren’t at very different levels.
If Woodburn—and Ejaria, too—continue their rise, though, we may not have long to wait, and the answer for both could come in the next international break in March of the new year.