Early pre-season games always mean a heavy dose of youth and fringe players, names to get excited about for the future, perhaps; to slot away for a year or two down the road or for when an injury crisis hits the first team. For Liverpool fans watching on this year, the summer of 2016 is no different.
And it’s no different for Klopp than many of those fans, as the Liverpool manager says he’s enjoying watching the youngsters sprinkled in amongst the early returning veterans as Liverpool go through their training, through their three-a-days and pre-season warm-ups. So, who is it exactly who’s caught Klopp’s eye?
"I had a long talk with Alex Inglethorpe and he sang big songs about the boys," said the Liverpool manager when asked about the youngsters who have been preparing for the season with the first team over the past few weeks. "I did, too, because they have trained great and they have all been good to have around.
"[Ben Woodburn] is a natural offensive player. It was very nice to see. Ovie [Ejaria] has done well, both at Tranmere and here again.They all looked a bit tired, especially Trent [Alexander-Arnold], who was very tired after two games and a lot of training. But they are good players, smart. I’m really happy with them."
At only 16 years of age, Woodburn is certainly a name for the future, though the young winger has been highly rated by the academy bosses for some time. Ejaria and Alexander-Arnold, though, could be names to watch as surprise first team players this season—especially if the injuries start to pile up at some point.
One player who seems certain to be in the first team picture, through, is 20-year-old midfielder Marko Grujic, who had his first appearance for the club last night and scored his first goal. It was a strong showing in the attacking third, one that shows why Liverpool were eager to sign him, but Klopp said it wasn’t perfect.
"He’s still a young lad," said Klopp. "There is a lot he has to develop in terms of physicality and the other footballing parts. He was okay tonight, absolutely, but you saw him defending together with Trent and Kevin Stewart—Kev did all the work and the other two boys were a little bit in half spaces.
"They have to learn; they have to improve. But they can all play football, that’s for sure. He scored his first goal, which was nice to see. First goal, first game situation, it’s a dream. You don’t see a player celebrate like that in a friendly game very often! He showed it was a big moment, which is nice to see."