Liverpool youth academy players
Scouting reports on the best young players from Melwood
Liverpool’s academy has produced a plethora of iconic players across the decades, from Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard to Trent Alexander-Arnold. As the club continues to operate with markedly different budgets to their Premier League rivals, more emphasis is being placed on producing and developing young players from within.
Here are brief profiles on the next generation coming through the Melwood academy. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.
What is Liverpool's academy identity?
In a city enshrined in its own unique identity, Liverpool – as a fanbase, club and academy – reflects that. The players it produces is are often sourced from the city and its surrounding areas, stretching over county borders and into nearby Wales too. They’re often fan of the club too, entrenching that sense of belonging.
It isn’t the strongest academy in English football, though – Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester City are better.
What are Liverpool's academy pathways?
Liverpool have always created pathwyas for their best, hence the likes of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher going on to be legends at the club.
Under Jürgen Klopp, that is still the case. Particularly with the model that they have implemented, there is a strong emphasis on young players – a mix of academy players and recruits – to play significant roles for the first-team.
Who are Liverpool's best academy graduates?
Liverpool have a strong tradition of producing great Scouse players. Steven Gerrard is undeniably the greatest, followed up by the likes of Jamie Caragher, Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, and so on. Trent Alexander-Arnold – a pillar of the club’s recent success – is the latest. Michael Owen isn’t a Scouser, but he too is one of the best academy-produced players in the club’s history.
They’ve also developed a number of players that are currently playing to a high level across European football.
What competitions do Liverpool's academy teams play in?
Liverpool’s youth teams have been usurped somewhat by stronger academies in recent years. Nonetheless, by virtue of the senior team’s dominance, they regular compete in the UEFA Youth League as well as their normal domestic competitions.
Liverpool invested a substantial £3 million fee to pick up the then-16-year-old Kaide Gordon from cash-strapped Derby County at the start of 2021; that underlines the level of talent he has in itself.
No sooner than six months after joining the club, Gordon was heavily involved in the first-team’s pre-season preparations. Those involvements lead into a senior debut in the League and FA Cups, as well as outing on Premier League benches, further underlining how highly rated he is by Jürgen Klopp and co.
Kaide Gordon's style of play
Gordon has quite a slight frame, no surprise given his age, but he has lots of potential to fill out into a very rounded athlete. His physique contributes to his exceptional sharpness too. With his change of tempo, straight-line speed and body control, he has the makings of a high-level attacker in terms of athleticism.
Gordon is a dribbler, shooter and creator rolled into one; he poses a versatile attacking threat off the right side, not dissimilar to Mohamed Salah. He always seeks to drive at defences, whether cutting inside or slicing to the byline, and is great at creating separation to get a shot off or fire in a cross. Gordon is also adept at releasing overlapping runners.
His dribbling style is rooted in technique too. He keeps the ball tight to his toes with quick little touches that keep defenders guessing. All in all, Gordon is one of the most exciting prospects of his 2004 year group. Except to hear a lot more about him before too long.
Kaide Gordon is a versatile, left-footed attacking threat off the right wing. He is a technical player that combines high-level athleticism with promising intelligence and vision. Gordon can impact games as a dribbler, shooter, passer, and defender.
There are few pronounced weaknesses to Kaide Gordon’s game beyond his slight physique, which needs time to fill out and develop as he grows older.
Born in Manchester, James Balagizi saw his first forays into football with Manchester City before becoming a Liverpool player at under-11 level. And he has not looked back since, becoming one of the standout players for Liverpool’s academy as he has risen through the age groups; even debuting at under-18 level as a 15-year-old.
He has joined Crawley Town in League Two of the 2022/23 season, teaming up with highly-rated coach Kevin Betsy, who has impressed at England youth level and Arsenal’s U-23 team.
James Balagizi's style of play
Balagizi’s 6’2”, thick-set frame belies the quality he has in possession. The English midfielder is extremely light on his feet as he glides around the pitch, shifting his weight effortlessly to get past his opponents as he seeks to attack the final third.
He has a soft and delicate touch too, and he is very comfortable receiving the ball in traffic. He likes to receive the ball on the half-turn, with these scenarios then giving him the momentum to propel himself forward with the ball.
At times, he can be a bit overzealous when trying to beat his man or when attempting to slalom through a group of defenders trying to challenge him, as he runs into cul-de-sacs and loses possession.
He needs to iron out some of these on-ball inefficiencies, but his technical quality, ability to operate in traffic, and sheer size make him an intimidating midfield presence at academy level.
James Balagizi is a big-bodied central midfielder that combines dynamic size with technique and ball-carrying abilities. He is adept at receiving and portecting possession, plus adds value in terms of ball progression and creativity around the box.
He can be inefficient in his actions, losing possession too much in certain situaions. His tendency to carry the ball unsurprisingly means he holds onto it too long too often, for instance.
As the great-nephew of Ian Rush, a legend for club and country, Owen Beck has a bit of a reputation to live up to for Liverpool and Wales. It’s practically impossible for him to live up to those standards, but he’s made a solid start to his career, impressing with the under-23 team and in this season’s UEFA Youth League.
The club decided to send him out on loan to Portugal, strangely enough, this past summer but his time at Famalicão was cut short. He has since joined Bolton Wanderers in League One, a loan that makes much more sense for all parties.
Owen Beck's style of play
Like Gordon and Koumetio, Beck has also been involved Jürgen Klopp’s side at senior level. While he has yet to be involved competitively, he featured prominently during pre-season in the absence of Andrew Robertson.
The 19-year-old is an energetic left-back that gets up and down his side effectively. His physique is a little underdeveloped at this stage, but the potential is there for him to fill out into a very sturdy size. Beck is a very active, up-tempo player in every phase of play. He plays with good tenacity which mitigates his lack of physicality, particulrly in defensive duels.
One of his better skills in possession is direct passing that accesses the forward line; Beck is adept at punching mid-range passes from wide into their. He’s also a good runner on the overlap, constantly presenting an option outside.
In future, Beck seems set for a solid career domestically and probably internationally, but he’ll need to kickstart it with a loan (or permanent move) to a lower level first.
Similar to Andy Robertson, Owen Beck is a left-back that plays with tempo and directness. His verticality from deep is a big facet of his game, energetic running and direct passing are too. Underpinning his skillset is a solid technical level.
He still has a lot of room to fill out into his body, and that will define the next step of his development. If Beck can become a bit stronger, a bit more robust, he will be a left-back that plays to a high level.
More academy player pages
Liverpool’s academy doesn’t produce players with the frequency of their rivals, but it does produce great local players for their first-team. Michael Owen was an exceptional talent before injuries slowed him down; Steven Gerrard became a genuine club legend; Trent Alexander-Arnold is probably the best in the world at what he does too.
Kaide Gordon is the standout of their new generation and is most likely to develop into a first-team player, albeit he was picked up for a significant fee from Derby County. James Balagizi is another interesting prospect, as are the likes of Tyler Morton and Owen Beck.