Not many Liverpool fans like to admit it, but we were spoiled by Raheem Sterling. The revisionism following his move to Manchester City that “he isn’t that good anyway” was childish and he remains a remarkable footballer. However, with Sterling taking the brunt of the media glare last season, people are only just noticing another prodigious talent in Jordon Ibe. Make no mistake, Liverpool have a gem on their hands.
The difference is that Liverpool can now manage Ibe’s game time. Injuries and chronically poor attacking options last season led to Sterling being shoe-horned into a centre-forward position. At the age of 19, he was suddenly the main man with nowhere to hide. Nowadays, Jurgen Klopp is able to move Ibe in and out of the team to aid his development.
Keith Cross wrote last month of how Ibe seemed to be turning a corner following his Man of the Match performance in the 1-0 win away at Rubin Kazan.
While his performance in Russia was pleasing, he followed it up by starting the 2-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace.
If this situation had occurred with Sterling last season, more pressure would have been heaped on the youngster’s shoulders in an attempt to get back to winning ways. But this time round, Klopp was able to take Ibe out of the spotlight. The result? A 4-1 win at Manchester City, during which Ibe appeared as a second-half substitute to rebuild his confidence.
The winger then won the decisive penalty in the 1-0 victory over Swansea, before netting in the 6-1 rout of Southampton.
Being able to pick and choose when Ibe plays is a luxury that Liverpool simply could not afford last season, but with a bigger squad and results on the up, Klopp is managing the team to great effect.
Ibe’s recent performances have epitomised everything that Klopp has instilled in Liverpool – energy, pace, fun. Ibe is a fun player. He beats people. He takes them on. He attempts outrageous disguised passes with his instep.
Klopp has revitalised Ibe with slaps, bear hugs and booming shouts of “IBEEEY!”
A promising pre-season seemed to have given way to a complete lack of confidence just a few games into the current campaign, but Klopp has revitalised him with slaps, bear hugs and booming shouts of “IBEEEY!”.
His track record of coaxing the best out of young attacking players is phenomenal. He helped Marco Reus become a player synonymous with Anfield transfer links and turned Mario Gotze from a skinny youngster into a £31.5m, World Cup-winning superstar.
One area where Ibe needs to improve upon is his finishing. He hadn’t scored for the Reds prior to Klopp’s appointment, but the youngster broke his duck against Rubin Kazan before firing in against Southampton.
Ibe goal, Henderson and Klopp celebration! Lovely! pic.twitter.com/IDxIH2Te6f
— GaGs (@_Gags_) December 2, 2015
Klopp had a similar player to Ibe in Jakub Blaszczykowski at Borussia Dortmund. As a conventional, pacey winger, he was not traditionally a prolific goalscorer, never registering more than three league goals a season for the Bundesliga outfit. That is until 2011-12, when Blaszczykowski grabbed six goals and laid on seven assists. He then took his game to another level as he racked up 11 goals and 12 assists in 2012-13.
Like he did with Blaszczykowski, Klopp has given Ibe the freedom to roam inside more, which has resulted in a better end product.
Before we all get carried away, let’s remember that Ibe is still only 19. He’s unlikely to score 11 league goals in a season anytime soon and very few footballers play week in, week out at such a young age.
There will be plenty more peaks and troughs in the coming years as Ibe continues to grow as a player, but if he’s managed correctly and allowed to reach the potential that he has in such abundance, he can look forward to plenty more hugs from Kloppo.