The summer of 2023 could be transformative for Liverpool – and it presents a big opportunity for the talented crop of players emerging from their academy.
The future of Fabinho remains up in the air, club captain Jordan Henderson is on the verge of departing, while Naby Keita, James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have already left.
New recruits Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai are using pre-season to get integrated into Jurgen Klopp’s new-look midfield, but the summer friendlies have also given a number of youngsters a chance to show what they can offer.
We’ve identified five Liverpool wonderkids that are using pre-season to try and stake a claim with more of a first-team role in the upcoming 2023-24 campaign.
The most hyped kid in Liverpool’s academy right now, Scotland Under-21 international Doak has already turned heads in the youth team since arriving from Celtic last year.
The 17-year-old winger already has a handful of appearances for the first team and made his Premier League debut on Boxing Day last year.
“Ben Doak, still 17, but he is just a joy to watch! With all the little struggles he has with losing the ball here and there, but the bravery, speed and the power is so cool to see,” said Klopp, speaking on Liverpool’s official podcast.
The Liverpool boss is evidently a big fan of the teenager, who has already picked up considerable minutes in the summer friendlies. He started in a front three alongside Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz in a recent 4-4 draw with Greuther Furth and went on one particularly eye-catching run.
An early chance for Ben Doak after a brilliant, direct run down the right:
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 24, 2023
Son of former Wales international Jason Koumas, young Lewis has made a name for himself after adapting his game from midfield into attack over the past year. He notched 12 goals and and five assists in the Under-18 Premier League last term and is now surely approaching a first-team breakthrough.
Koumas scored four goals in one game in the season opener, a 4-0 victory over Middlesbrough, and has never looked back.
“We spoke to Louie, got him on board and he was happy to try and play in that position,” U18s coach Marc Bridge-Wilkinson told the Liverpool ECHO.
“We talked about the strengths in his game and why we thought he might fit, and you have to give him an awful lot of credit because the first time he played centre-forward was the week before the season started.”
The 17-year-old striker has since made late cameo appearances off the bench in each of Liverpool’s last two pre-season friendlies.
With Trent Alexander-Arnold’s potentially moving into midfield on a more permanent basis next season and Calvin Ramsay loaned out to Championship side Preston, there may well be a vacancy for Bradley at right-back.
The 20-year-old made his Reds debut in a League Cup clash with Norwich back in 2021. He’s already got 13 caps for Northern Ireland and got a full season’s worth of senior experience out on loan at Bolton Wanderers last term, in which he notched five goals and four assists in League One.
Bradley was handed back-to-back starts against Karlsruhe and Greuther Furth, intriguingly in his natural right-back spot while Alexander-Arnold featured in midfield. Something to keep an eye out for.
A relatively lesser-known name, McConnell has developed his skills at Kirkby since arriving from Sunderland as a 16-year-old.
The midfielder is yet to make his senior competitive debut but he’s evidently highly thought-of, having been brought along with the senior players to Germany after signing a long-term contract late last year.
McConnell missed months of action last season due to injury, but impressed when fit and available in the Premier League 2 and UEFA Youth League.
Klopp brought the 18-year-old on at halftime in each of Liverpool’s last two friendlies.
“The sky’s the limit for him, he can be whatever he wants,” says Joey Barton, who coached Quansah during his loan at Bristol Rovers.
“Jurgen Klopp doesn’t feel the way he feels about you, training with the first team unless you’re a good player.”
The 20-year-old centre-back made 16 appearances in League One for Barton’s Pirates side last season. That was Quansah’s first taste of senior football, but he’s been established himself as a talented prospect in youth football for some time.
The defender was part of the Liverpool Under-18s side that made it to the FA Youth Cup final in 2021 and he was part of England’s UEFA European Under-19 Championship-winning side the following summer – whereby he was also named in the Team of the Tournament.
Having returned from the Under-20 World Cup with England earlier this summer, Quansah replaced Virgil van Dijk at the break in each of Liverpool’s last two friendlies. If he’s not loaned out again this season, a competitive Reds debut this season is surely inevitable.