For a team that doesn’t have the financial or competitive pull to attract the very best players in the world, producing ones own first team players through the youth system is the holy grail. The strategy makes sense both on and off the pitch, as players learning the playing style and philosophy of the club — assuming there is a collective ideology running through it at all levels — before being introduced to first team football will have a leg up on any player brought in from the outside, and developing your own players is much, much cheaper than purchasing household names.
Jürgen Klopp came from Dortmund with a reputation for giving young, unheralded players a chance, and has demonstrated it at Liverpool, handing debuts to ten players under the age of 21 since taking the reins from Brendan Rodgers 18 months ago. One of those ten is promising central midfielder Ovie Ejaria, and the manager chose to use the former Arsenal youth player as an example to be followed when addressing the current crop of youngsters currently taking part in the club's training camp in Tenerife.
“I told the boys before the session [on Tuesday] that last year, Ovie Ejaria came onto my plate, if you want," the German told the official site.
“I saw him here first. I knew him, I saw him playing a few times, but here having him around for four days and seeing him in small spaces in the sessions against the ‘adults’ if you want was very important for him and for me.
He continued: “It’s an opportunity. You can see in their eyes they know it; they are really ambitious when they think about the sessions and we will try to do everything we can to give them the opportunity to impress.
“There’s no doubt about the attitude, there’s no doubt about quality – it’s only a question of are they already ready or not? If not, then they still have time. If yes, then let’s make the next step.”
Ejaria, still only 19, has gone on to make eight appearances for the first team, proving that he can have a role to play if the situation calls for it. Alongside Ben Woodburn and Trent Alexander-Arnold, he has made up the threesome of teenagers most trusted by Klopp, and those seemingly most likely to make the breakthrough to consistent first team minutes in the future. While the thin match schedule and tough competition for top four makes it improbable either youngster will feature much in the remainder of the campaign, it is good to know that the talent is there, and that the manager is not only willing, but wants to use it.