The Liverpool academy used to be full of false hope.
For a period of time, fans had high hopes for the youngsters on the books. The ones who’d either carved out a reputation having impressed prior to their move to Merseyside or those boosted by what they eventually turn out to be according to Football Manager.
Ultimately, the Reds weren’t getting the most out of the time and money they put into their academy. Those tipped for greatness fizzled out. The next Robbie Fowlers and Steven Gerrards moved on to other clubs without even making a ripple on the first-team at Anfield. To add insult to injury, those in charge of sales seemed to be selling for below market value.
If the academy wasn’t having a huge impact on the starting XI, it should have at least been supplementing first-team signings. It was doing neither.
Over recent seasons, however, it’s all changed. Now, the academy is rivalling the first-team in terms of the impact it’s having on the club. It’s given Liverpool an advantage and one they’re leveraging properly.
Jordon Ibe, Brad Smith, Danny Ward, Kevin Stewart and Andre Wisdom were sold for a collective sum in the region of £45million – or Mohamed Salah and a bit of change.
Ryan Kent looks set to join Leeds United this summer with the mooted fee of around £7million. That sale alone would likely cover the tribunal fee for Harvey Elliott as well as what it cost to sign Sepp van den Berg ahead of Ajax and PSV. Right now, the teenagers are nothing more than potentially brilliant players but If they fulfil that potential, the Reds could have close to £100million worth of talent at their disposal.
And the club funded these arrivals by selling someone they signed as a seven-year-old back in 2003. It’s smart business no matter how you look at it and a far cry from when they were forced to part ways with Suso for a measly £1million. It’s a step up from the days of selling Conor Coady for £500,000, too.
Rafael Camacho left the club this summer for an upfront fee of £5million with clauses added into the deal with Sporting Lisbon. He arrived as a 16-year-old and made a handful of starts before being sold for a substantial profit.
Harry Wilson could be the next academy graduate to leave with Bournemouth reportedly keen. Even if that ends up being just a loan move for now and he fails to really impress for the Cherries, Liverpool will more than likely get at least £15million for the Wales international if they decide to cash in on him in January.
Between the pair of them, the Reds could bank around the £20million mark. For example, that pays off a third of what Sporting reportedly want for Bruno Fernandes. Being able to cover a fair chunk of what would be a substantial outlay simply by selling two academy players shows the process is working.
And Liverpool could chip away at that percentage with the sales of, for example, Ben Woodburn, Sheyi Ojo, Taiwo Awoniyi, Ovie Ejaria and Pedro Chirivella. If Michael Edwards plays his cards right, he could well fund a £40million signing off the back of the sales of these academy players.
The turnaround is remarkable. From overhyped teenagers moving on for next to nothing to developing talented teens worth tens of millions.
The once jammed conveyor belt is now moving freely. If those prospects are sold, the Reds have even more talented ones on the horizon in Rhian Brewster, Curtis Jones, Ki-Jana Hoever, Yasser Larouci, Bobby Duncan and Paul Glatzel. Even if this group doesn’t make the cut at Anfield, they’re talented enough to be sold on for huge profits which then allow Edwards and the recruitment team to improve the first-team.
For the first time in a while, Liverpool have a clear plan in place and the academy is being used correctly. It’s an exciting time for both the first-team and the youngsters and shows how far the club have come since Edwards and his team took over control of the recruitment. It’s saved the Reds a small fortune and it’s played a key role in the club’s transformation from top four hopefuls to genuine title challengers.