Liverpool assistant coach Pep Lijnders says that he knew straight after watching youngster Kaide Gordon that he would be a good fit in the first team.
The 16-year-old, who celebrates his birthday next month, has yet to make a senior appearance for the Reds. However, he has already been in and around the first-team players in pre-season. In fact, he played 120 minutes over three games this summer.
Liverpool signed the teenage forward from Derby in February and he went into the club’s Under-18s set up.
Still, Gordon finished off the 2020/21 season with an outing for the Under-23s, scoring a goal in a 19-minute cameo against Leicester.
This term, he has already netted twice and got an assist in three Under-23s matches. What’s more, he has gained European experience with his UEFA Youth League bow against AC Milan.
Ahead of a potential first-team debut in the Carabao Cup against Norwich on Tuesday, Lijnders revealed how he spotted Gordon’s talents in this summer’s pre-season.
“About Kaide, before pre-season we always make sure that our biggest talents, or our talents, start a week earlier than we start, so they start with the U23s training,” the coach said in a press conference (via Liverpool’s website).
“So I went to watch U23s training and I see one player and he has fire in each moment he touched the ball!
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“He passes players like they are not standing there, so I call Jurgen [Klopp] immediately like, ‘Wow, we have a new player here!’”
Lijnders added that he can tell Gordon has a bright future ahead of him by the way Liverpool’s senior players treat him.
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“So we take all these young players to the pre-season and when do you know you have a good player around you? It’s when the senior players start taking care of this young player.
“So when you see James Milner speaking with Kaide, when you see Trent [Alexander-Arnold] becoming like a proper mentor, when you see that they invite him to sit on the table.
“All our boys invited him in our group and that made it, not easier, but it made it good for him, how to adapt to our team, to our style.”
Lijnders added that Gordon combines several traits many wingers have, but perhaps not in one skillset.
“He is what you see a lot with these kind of wingers – they can outplay, they can combine – but he has a goal in him and he has this natural ability to be in the box between the goalposts to score, even when the cross comes from the opposite side, for example. Not many talents have that,” the coach said.
“They have maybe dribbling skills but they don’t have this desire to shoot, to come in the box, to score.
“So he is a typical Liverpool Football Club winger, in my opinion, because he has goals, he has speed. We really like him and we are really happy he is with us.”
Liverpool have an impressive track record of developing youth talent, with Alexander-Arnold and Harvey Elliott shining recent examples.