Ryan Gravenberch – He’s Beginning to Believe

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Transfer Confusion and Choices

I was very sceptical about the signing of Ryan Gravenberch in the summer, mostly because it came only weeks after Liverpool failed to capture the world class destroyer, Moisés Caicedo. The fact that no elite defensive midfielder was recruited still causes me confusion and annoyance, as it was the most important position of need over the pre-season, especially after the unexpected sale of Fabinho to the Saudi Pro League club, Al-Ittihad.

Amid continued transfer uncertainty, Jürgen Klopp chose to pinpoint his long-term target, Ryan Gravenberch, as the final piece of an intricate and largely transformative summer of change.

A Glimpse into Gravenberch’s Past

The limitless talents of the former Ajax star were never in doubt, at least in the eyes of our illustrious German manager. The fact that as a teenager, he was recruited by Bayern Munich (despite a rather disappointing second full season in the Eredivisie), was a sign of of the player he could become. The managerial changes that engulfed the German giants through the young Dutchman’s entire stay, clearly left the novice footballer unsure and perhaps overlooked by the world-renowned club. The fact that his former Bundesliga head coach, Julian Nagelsmann, was dismissed so soon into his own Allianz Arena stay, pointed to the fact that both he and his eventual replacement, Thomas Tuchel, were required to ensure immediate progress across all competitions to maintain their respective stays. In such a pressurised environment, it would have been almost impossible for either manager to give the playing time and attention that was needed, to fully raise the level of their new midfield prospect, Ryan Gravenberch. The fact that Tuchel, signed Harry Kane and then desperately tried to recruit João Palhinha, shows that he himself wanted only finished articles, to maximise his immediate chances of success.

This is where Liverpool was able to take advantage and sign their relative outcast, for a very reasonable transfer fee of £40m.

Gravenberch at Anfield

After a slow and methodical introduction to life at Anfield, we have seen flashes of great skill and talent within the 21-year-old attacking midfielder. The murmurs of discontent that emanated at his previous club, Bayern, seem almost farfetched, given the bright start he has made to life as a red. In a sign of determination to succeed at his new club, the 6ft 3inch playmaker even turned down a call to the Netherlands under-21 squad, which came only a short while after he arrived on Merseyside. His decision to dedicate extra time to understanding his new club and home, was met with unnecessary comments from the senior bodies of the Dutch national hierarchy. Regardless of how his managerial compatriots viewed his controversial choice, clearly his want to immerse himself within a completely new setting, was more valuable than some rather pointless under-age international cap.

Klopp and His New Prodigy

With a startling group of ultra-talented young midfielders at his disposal, Klopp seems intent on proving any doubters wrong, by creating the brilliance that once conquered all of world football. Players have often bought into the demands of the former Dortmund manager, in the knowledge that he would stand by those who are willing to follow him. With a fatherly persona and fiercely protective personality, I would imagine the inexperienced Gravenberch was reassured and protected in every decision he has made since arriving at his new destination. That kind of relationship appears to have unearthed the brilliance that was at risk of remaining unfulfilled, by those less willing. So many mavericks and misunderstood prodigies have fallen away through the cracks of football, which were created by teams not having patience or understanding of the needs of certain individuals. For the 11-cap Netherlands international, I imagine the first conversation with his new manager and the knowledge that his national captain, Virgil van Dijk, would be awaiting his arrival, was all he needed to agree to the move. There was a stubborn belief portrayed by certain decision makers at Anfield, that the player was worth the scrutiny and discussion, which appears to have been proved correct, at least so far.

That belief may now be migrating from mentor to student, as based upon the sensational performance against Toulouse in the midweek, Ryan Gravenberch is the one that is finally beginning to believe.

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