On this day in 2019, Jurgen Klopp gave six players their full or unofficial debuts during a Carabao Cup match at MK Dons
When an opportunity arises, Jurgen Klopp has always given Liverpool’s rising players a chance.
These frequently appear in domestic cup events. Chances for fringe or young players don’t typically present themselves because the Reds are focused on competing for the Premier League championship and the Champions League.
But the FA Cup and League Cup tell a different tale. Klopp makes an effort to give the younger players game time early on so they may demonstrate their abilities.
On this day three years ago, that was unquestionably the situation. In the third round of the Carabao Cup at MK Dons back then, Liverpool earned a 2-0 victory.
Even while the game didn’t end up having much of an impact on the season overall, the five lads who Klopp gave their senior Reds debuts to had a big night.
The Stadium MK saw the debuts of Rhian Brewster, Herbie Kane, Harvey Elliott, Caoimhin Kelleher, and Sepp van den Berg for Liverpool. Elliott, who is 16 years and 174 days old, set a milestone by becoming the club’s youngest player to ever be named to the starting lineup.
After that game, Klopp was all praise for Elliott. With tons of talent and promise, he had only recently moved from Fulham, and the match against Milton Keynes was everyone’s first opportunity to see the adolescent in action.
This type of footballer who is still just sixteen years old is beneficial to us, according to Klopp. “(He is) a clever youngster, handles pressure really well, loves to grow, and will always be a special player in certain situations, but his overall game is really, really strong,” one person said.
“He was a little unlucky because he would have scored, but they are all good players; we don’t have any awful young players, so it’s vital we can give them these matches and try to keep doing this,” said the coach.
While for Elliott the night represented the beginning of new things, it would not be the case for some of the others. In reality, Liverpool would sign permanent deals with two of the aforementioned debutants just a year later.
Brewster, who joined Sheffield United in October 2020, is one example. The striker cost the Reds £23.5 million, and the club also agreed to a 15% sell-on clause and a guaranteed buy-back option that is good through 2023.
As a result of a catastrophic injury that kept him out of play for more than a year, Brewster only made four appearances for Liverpool that season. Swansea City, where he spent the second part of the 2019–20 season on loan, allowed the Reds to exploit the player’s success in the Championship to negotiate a deal for him.
However, Klopp wanted to guarantee that the player got the chance to play and advance his development. The Liverpool manager was aware that senior level opportunities at Anfield would be scarce.
Just before Brewster joined with Sheffield United, Klopp said, “Rhian couldn’t make it here, so far (into the first team). “Basically, it is all the information. However, he has come a long way in his development.
“Rhian had a terrible injury, so we wanted to make sure he was fully recovered and prepared for all the responsibilities of professional football. He came here for preseason and scored for us, showing that he had made significant progress after a tremendously strong first half of the season at Swansea.
“It has to do with growth; if Rhian were now 25 or 26, we would advise her to stay and work for her chance since things are different when you are younger. It’s crucial for a guy like Rhian to take the appropriate action now and make the most of the time he lost due to the terrible injury.
“I’m not sure what will happen there, but it’s possible that moving to another club might make sense.
Kane was yet another player that Liverpool sold. Barnsley reportedly paid the Reds £1.2 million to acquire the teenage midfielder in 2020.
Kane was hardly ever used by Liverpool’s first team, but the club had had him on its roster ever since he joined from Bristol City at the age of 14 in 2013. In one of his two senior outings for the Reds, he participated for just eight minutes of the victory in Milton Keynes.
Kane acknowledged that he did have regrets about heading to Anfield at such a young age just a few days after leaving Liverpool. Despite this, he stated that his time spent in Merseyside was essential to the development of his current job.
In Barnsley’s official game-day program, Kane stated, “It’s not something I’ve really thought about before, but I think with contemplation, I’d definitely stay at Bristol City if I had to make the same decision again.”
“I have to be honest and say that Liverpool wasn’t the best. When they’re attempting to sign you, a lot of things are promised to you, but nothing ever materialized – but that can be said about football in general, to be honest.
“The only way I can adequately describe my experience there is to compare it to selecting your team as a young player and being selected last.
“That sort of emotion was present. Even if my time there wasn’t the best for me, it was a valuable experience, and without it, I doubt I would be at Barnsley today.”
Ki-Jana Hoever, who was making his full club debut that evening in Milton Keynes, was another player who made an impression. The young defender scored a header that turned out to be his lone goal while wearing a Liverpool jersey.
But a year later, he would be traded to Wolves for £13.5 million, netting the Reds £38.2 million for the trio together with the sales of Brewster and Kane.
But when he came off the bench to make his senior debut in an FA Cup game at Wolves in January 2019, he rose to the position of third-youngest player in Liverpool history. His skill was obvious to all during his time at Anfield, yet he has since fallen down that list.
Nevertheless, he would only play for Liverpool for four games—the victory over MK Dons, followed by cup matches against Aston Villa and Shrewsbury Town—before being traded to Wolves in September 2020. Hoever acknowledged at the time that, although leaving a prominent club, it wasn’t altogether a difficult choice.
“Although it wasn’t an easy decision, However told Goal in March 2021 that it wasn’t all that difficult either. “I made the choice because I knew I would play more than I did at Liverpool. For my career at the time, I believed it to be the best course of action.
“Now, obviously, you don’t know because of the injuries [at Liverpool], but I don’t think that. How much game time would I have if everyone was in shape, I wondered? It was extremely challenging for me to make an impact at Liverpool because they still have such a strong team, possibly the best back four in the world.
And this was a smart concept. I would be an active member of the team and a true first-team player. I basically got what I expected, but I still think I can do better. So far, the first season has been good.