Jurgen Klopp recognises Trent Alexander-Arnold as a stand-out star of his generation… but warns against burning out the teenage sensation.
Liverpool manager Klopp admits he is reluctant to even speak about his 18-year-old new boy – who announced himself to Reds fans and a wider football audience with a stunning Champions League goal against Hoffenheim in Germany – for fear of ramping up the hype.
Yet even for a manager who has developed so many promising young players, such as Mario Gotze, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski, into genuine world-class talents, Klopp is excited about where the all-round skills of the local-born player can lead.
The Reds’ boss is adamant though, that it won’t lead to the defender becoming an immediate fixture in the Liverpool side — because he knows all too well the dangers of piling the intensity of repeat games at the top level on young shoulders.
“It is a good situation for Trent to play games and try to understand, but I don’t think we can let him play five games in 14 days or something like this,” the manager explained. “Why? Because he is 18.
“It’s about bringing the player in a better situation to deal better with the intensity of the game. He has not had the time other players (have had) to do this.
“Yes, he is a big talent but I think we speak too much about him. That’s not my problem because I want a situation where the boy can develop, make mistakes.”
Despite injury to first-choice right-back Nathaniel Clyne, Klopp will give Alexander-Arnold a break in one of Liverpool’s next two matches as they complete a run of four tough games in just 12 days.
That could see him miss Crystal Palace’s Saturday visit to Anfield, with Joe Gomez on standby, or maybe Wednesday night’s decider against a Hoffenheim team who now know all about the teenager’s talent.
Yet while Klopp is determined to avoid the perils of burn-out, he is very aware that he has a talent on his hands… and one he wants to see have a 20-year career at the very top level.
“He’s a young boy with a few more skills than the others, that is 100%,” Klopp said with a suppressed smile. “It’s not just the goal or the free-kick – it was the other set-pieces, the crosses were very good.
“He has a lot to learn, a lot to adapt, and there are a lot of challenges. Until he is 35 and 36 and finished, his career is a long way.
“Having already played and scored in the Champions League is really nice. But it’s up and down a bit more with younger players.
“Did I laugh at the mistake he made (in Hoffenheim, leading to the Germans’ goal)? No. But it showed everything in one game. That’s how young players are.”
Klopp is likely to make several changes to his starting XI against Palace.
Striker Daniel Sturridge is returning after an injury break, and he will also look at left-back, where one of James Milner or new boy Andy Robertson could replace Alberto Moreno.
Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho is still out with a back problem.
The Liverpool boss though, insists he is not fearful of the visitors’ threat at set-pieces, despite weakness again in that area being highlighted again by Watford on the opening weekend.
“I think we did well in the last game [Hoffenheim],— nothing happened. It’s a big improvement on the other side so far as we had a lot of good situations out of set-pieces offensively. So that’s another good thing,” he said.
“Set-pieces, at the moment, we work hard — I know the importance of set-pieces.”