Jordon Ibe is very, very fast. And very, very promising. As one might expect with an 18-year-old prospect who's made just three appearances for Liverpool, he's also a little rough around the edges. All the talent is there to become one of the league's best attackers, but the technique and the tactical side of his game hasn't yet quite progressed to match his physical talent.
For Ibe, then, this is a hugely important pre-season, one where he can make a case for sticking at the club and getting first team minutes in domestic cup competitions and off the bench. Or to show that maybe he needs another season out on loan playing every week after spending the second half of last season off with Birmingham City.
"It's going to be interesting for me to look at his development over the pre-season," said manager Brendan Rogers following the match yesterday. "You saw tonight that he's a really exciting young player, but he's still only 18 years of age. He had a wonderful piece of skill and run for the goal, a good assist. And that's something we're looking to improve in Jordon."
His run to set up Kristoffer Peterson's second half goal was certainly an exceptional one as he flew past Brondby defenders with such ease they might as well have been cones he was dribbling past in training. It also showed some of his current limitations—ones he has plenty of time to work on but that may see him off on loan again this season.
"He's disappointed with his first touch when he was through on goal," continued Rodgers. "He's an exciting talent who is very good in one-v-one and works very hard at his game. We'll give him time—I don't necessarily need young players to be ready at 17 or 18—but certainly by 20 or 21 we'll want him to be ready."
Rodgers seems to be setting out a quite reasonable timeline for a player like Ibe, and a full season on loan starting every week before he returns to Liverpool next year as a squad player seems the most like course. It may not satisfy those who want every player to make an instant impact, but it's probably what's needed to smooth away Ibe's rough edges.
It's also probably what's needed now that Liverpool are back in the top four and building a far deeper squad than the one that Raheem Sterling broke into. As a tricky young attacker, Ibe is often compared to the England international who is only a year older than him, but when Sterling broke through Liverpool were closer to mid-table than the top of it.
The two players also, despite the frequent comparisons, aren't at particularly similar places in their development. Ibe might be the more physically gifted of the two, but at the same stage in his career, Sterling had developed the technical and tactical side of his game further, and his exceptional close control and vision allowed him to move inside and play the ten last season.
"He's a different type of player to Raheem," added Rodgers, "but certainly both like to beat people and commit defenders. They are very aggressive with the ball. It's just looking at the next stage of his development so that hopefully he can consistently do that."
Ibe may never develop into the same kind of refined but pacy player Sterling is becoming, but whatever player he becomes, he is likely a year or two away from being a regular starter. The only question left is where Rodgers sees as the best place for him to continue that development.