Jurgen Klopp’s assistant coach Pep Lijnders has singled out Leighton Clarkson for a future with the first-team after a number of youngsters spent time at Melwood during the international break.
The 17-year-old, originally from Blackburn, has been impressed at youth level for some time, sitting in midfield and dictating tempo.
Lijnders has interestingly explained how the teenager consistently saw the runs Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were making and that he’s the type of no.6 he and Klopp ‘really like’.
“Leighton Clarkson, who sees with his own eyes the constant runs of Sadio and Mo in behind,” he told the official website. “He has the capacity to play the passes these type of forwards like to receive, he is the type of No.6 we really like, the one who can dictate play, but dictate with direction, who can speed up the tempo of the positional play, the one who has always time on the ball. Again, talent needs good role models, much more than criticism. Then you see how special our seniors are. The boys receive the treatment they earn and deserve, equal to our seniors, equal to everyone, it works accumulatively. I’ve said it before, the character of Jürgen becomes the character of the team and luckily that’s a good thing. It’s the thing that makes all the difference.”
This will give the prodigy an enormous confidence boost and following praise like that, it surely won’t be long before we see him in the U23s rather than the U18s.
Breaking into Liverpool’s first-team midfield though is going to be an extremely tough ask.
Right now, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, James Milner and Adam Lallana don’t start in Klopp’s first-choice central three – with Marko Grujic also out on loan – so to climb above all these names in the pecking order is going to be an enormous ask.
Still, all Clarkson can do is work hard and wait for his opportunity.