While going out and buying the world’s best players is a great way to get the glory you desire, there’s nothing like overseeing the development of a player from a youngster with high potential to a world-class star.
There are several sides in the Premier League with talent-laden academies, but it’s certainly hard to argue with the crop of players that are currently going through Liverpool’s youth/reserve set-up. Last season, Liverpool’s reserve team ran away with the Reserve Premier League North title and then trounced Aston Villa 3-0 to win the Reserve Premier League title.
Among Liverpool’s current crop of up-and-comers are a wealth of players who could not only make an impact for the Reds in the near future, but also for their respective national teams. Here’s a rundown of the players that have the most potential to do so.
Liverpool have a trio of goalkeepers who could be first choice for their countries in the near future.
18-year old Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi already has 12 caps for Hungary’s U-19 team, for whom he was the starting keeper for the recent UEFA U-19 championships, and it shouldn’t be long before he’s challenging to be Hungary’s #1. In fact, he received a call-up to the senior squad for a friendly against Croatia in May. There’s a good reason why Liverpool made sure to make his loan deal from MTK Hungaria a permanent one at the end of the transfer window.
He isn’t the only promising keeper on Liverpool’s books though, as 20-year old Bulgarian Nikolay Mihaylov is currently being loaned out to Steve McClaren’s FC Twente side, where he started in their 4-0 Champions League qualifier loss to Arsenal and in their Eredivisie opener against Roda JC. Mihaylov has earned a cap for the Bulgarian senior team, so he has 101 more to go to match his father Borislav, the most capped player in Bulgarian history and the current president of the Bulgarian Football Union.
However, the best of the bunch might be 17-year old Australian-born Dean Bouzanis, who is up for grabs for both Greece and Australia, both of whom he’s represented below senior level (Greece at U-19, Australia at U-17 and U-23). Rafa Benitez has reportedly said he’s the best keeper under 20 in the world, which is pretty high praise, and shows why two countries are trying their best to get him to commit his international future to them.
20-year old defender Jack Hobbs has been a regular for League One Leicester City thus far in the new season, and impressive performances could see him get into the frame for England’s U-21 team.
Rafa Benitez has raided South America for top talent, and along with the talents that are already a regular part of the first-team squad, 19-year old Argentine left back Emiliano Insua could be a future regular for his national side. Insua has already made a few appearances for Liverpool’s first team, and he was an integral part of Argentina’s triumph in the U-20 World Cup last year.
While the back has a number of top prospects, the midfield and attack boasts a wealth of talents that could hit the big stage at some point.
One of the most notable names is Argentine winger Sebastian Leto, who’s currently trying to overcome his work permit issues to forge a career in Europe, but it’s much, much more than just him.
Moroccan attacker Nabil El-Zhar has already represented Morocco’s senior team on six occasions, scoring twice, but after primarily playing in the reserves for Liverpool since his signing in 2006, is just now getting a chance to get a regular run-out, having made late sub appearances in four ties this season.
Among the promising English prospects in Liverpool’s midfield/attack is 20-year old Adam Hammill, who has yet to make his first appearance for Liverpool, but has spent the last two seasons on loan getting first-team experience at Dunfermline and Southampton, and he’s on loan at Blackpool this season, where he’s started all four of their Championship ties so far.
The top prospect in Liverpool’s youth system might be Hungarian goal-getter Krisztian Nemeth. It’s far too early to crown him the next Rushie, Fowler, or Owen, as Nemeth has yet to make his first appearance for Liverpool or for Hungary’s senior team, but it’s only a matter of time for both. The 19-year old has been a prolific scorer at every level, and he’s one of several talents that could help Hungary make a push to be more than just a middle-of-the-road side in the coming years.
Along with Nemeth, Liverpool have another promising Hungarian forward in their set-up in 18-year old Andras Simon, who was also in Hungary’s squad for the UEFA U-19 championships with Nemeth and Gulacsi and scored a goal. Along with West Ham summer purchase Balint Bajner (the youngest in the bunch at 17), Hungary has quite the England-based future up front, and that’s not even counting Watford’s Tamas Priskin.
Liverpool signed a couple of talented young forwards earlier this year in French youngster David N’Gog and Danish starlet Nikola Saric. The 17-year old Saric has represented Denmark at U-16, U-17, and U-18 levels, and he was the Danish FA’s U-17 Player of the Year in 2007, while N’Gog made 19 appearances and scored three goals last season for PSG, and he’s also played up to the U-19 level for France.
Joining Saric as part of the Scandinavian contingent in the set-up is 18-year old Swedish attacker Astrit Ajdarevic, who had a very solid scoring record with the Sweden U-17s, and the ‘new Patrik Berger,’ as he’s referred to, is certainly one to watch for the future.
These guys are only a portion of the prospects that Liverpool are bringing along right now, but all in all, if I were to field a team full of these youngsters in an international competition, I’d feel pretty good about my chances to win.
Throw in the likes of Ryan Babel (10 goals last season, already 24 appearances for Holland’s senior team at 21) and Lucas Leiva (more than 30 appearances for Liverpool last season, four caps for Brazil’s senior team), and you’ve got a loaded squad of talents who have time on their side.
Only time will tell as to how well these prospects develop and where their futures lie. It’s not easy to break into a team full of stars, so all of their futures may not lie at Anfield, and logic says that not all of them will pan out, but you can be sure that you will be hearing from several of these names for years to come.