When Jürgen Klopp first arrived at Anfield, one of his first moves was to bring back as many on-loan youngsters as he could. At the time, he said that there was more value to them training at the club and playing with the reserves than heading out on loan.
Two seasons later and with a first-hand understanding of the limitations of the English reserve system for player development, that view has rather changed for Klopp and his coaching staff, and in the most recent window they sent four key youngsters out on loan.
“It is a good opportunity for the younger players,” said assistant coach Peter Krawietz. “We really like the boys, each single one, and we want to give them the opportunity to become the best football players that they can be and to use all their potential.
“You have to consider what is best: to keep training with the first team and playing in the second team or to make the step to play real professional football. We thought it could be the best idea to send them all out on loan and let them make the next steps.”
Marko Grujic, Harry Wilson, Ovie Ejaria, and Ryan Kent all went on out on loan last month—to Cardiff, Hull, Sunderland, and Bristol respectively—with loan agreements in place that stipulating minimum minutes for the quartet, ensuring they would get first team football.
It’s a massive change from the more German approach to youth development that Klopp arrived at the club with, but one that is necessary in a system that has its reserve teams off in their own league rather than second teams integrated into the football pyramid.
Two Januaries ago, a player heading off on loan would have been a signal that Klopp didn’t see a future for them at Anfield. This year, at least for this quartet, it’s a sign that they do have a future role to play at Klopp’s Liverpool, at least according to Krawietz.
“We will get the players back in the summer and then we can have a look again at what their roles are,” he added, “because we have a lot of highly interesting and highly talented young players, such as Marko, Harry, Ovie, and Ryan.”