Dubai: With a first team reaping rewards at home and abroad, it seems Jurgen Klopp is heeding advice and turning his eye to the future at Liverpool.
And that future looks bright indeed.
The Anfield academy seems to have unearthed another gem in the form of 18-year-old Curtis Jones, whose stunning strike gave a youthful Liverpool a 1-0 win over Merseyside rivals Everton in their FA Cup clash on Sunday night.
Klopp made nine changes to the side that defeated Sheffield United in the Premier League on Thursday, with three teenagers starting at Anfield on Cup duty.
Unlike the rookie Reds that were soundly defeated 5-0 in the League Cup last month while the senior squad were in Doha winning the Club World Cup, the performance against Everton showed all the trademark Liverpool signs of maturity and confidence as they more than matched their vastly more experienced counterparts.
Klopp’s line-up cost 43.9 million pounds, while Everton’s team cost in the region of 222 million pounds, with Carlo Ancelotti sending out a full-strength side in a bid for a first Everton win at Anfield since 1999.
More than the victory that put Liverpool in the hat for the fourth-round draw, the win answered a lot of questions that had been floating around regarding the next generation of potential stars at Anfield. On this showing, they should be just fine.
Jones’ curling effort from outside the area found the top corner and was reminiscent of another young lad’s first senior goal 17 years ago — that of Wayne Rooney for Everton against Arsenal. Jones was just 20 months old at the time but now he has all the hallmarks of going on to achieve just as much as fellow Liverpool-born Rooney.
But he was not the only young star of the show for the Reds, demonstrating the production line of talented players at the academy is functioning just right. Right-back Neco Williams and winger Harvey Elliott both put in impressive shifts to show they deserve to wear the red shirt.
While his maturity in front of goal cannot be questioned, Jones sounded well-experienced in the interview trade after the game, piling praise on his teammates. “I can’t sum up my emotions,” he said. “For me it’s huge just being around this team every day and learning from this group of players. There are world-class players all over this team but I think I went out and showed what I could do on the pitch.”
Meanwhile, the blue side of Merseyside is very blue.
Everton boss Ancelotti declared he is planning an immediate inquest into his side’s embarrassing defeat against a side with three boys who have just started learning how to shave.
“I am not used to speaking to the players after the game but I am going to speak to them about this,” Ancelotti said.
“I think in the second half we were not able to keep the right ideas on the pitch as we did in the first half, when we had the opportunity to score. “The fact we didn’t score in the first half affected the performance in the second half, which was not good enough.”
As Liverpool march towards a first league title in 30 years, the future looks much more than good enough for them right now.