Jurgen Klopp confirmed today that Ben Woodburn, Curtis Jones and Nat Phillips have all been told to train with the U23s this week rather than with the first team in Evian, despite having spent the summer with the senior side.
The likes of Ki-Jana Hoever and Bobby Duncan, as well as new signings Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott, are with Klopp and the senior players, so as much as the boss claimed it was purely because he didn’t want to take too many players to France unnecessarily, there is some kind of pecking order being established among the emerging stars.
Klopp had already declared the week to come as being the ‘most important week of pre-season’.
For Jones, who is still only 18, the move will have been a disappointment, but it is far from a hammer blow to his Reds senior team hopes. Competition for places in midfield is stern, and he still has plenty of time to develop.
For Woodburn (19) and Phillips (22), it is more of a concern. The latter, certainly, needs to be playing regularly, and he could well move away from the club in the next few weeks.
Woodburn burst onto the scene at 17 but has struggled for game time since. Another loan move seems logical for him this season. Like many promising players at his kind of age, he’s too good for the U23s but not quite at the level needed for first-team action.
A loan could suit the younger two of the trio, for sure, while Phillips might decide to move permanently after being cut from the squad, with four established senior players ahead of him in Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren.
Plenty of Championship sides would surely jump at the chance of purchasing Phillips, while some towards the bottom end of the Premier League might also be keen.