Building for the future: Youngsters snapped up by Liverpool demonstrate long-term plan at Anfield

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By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_

Planning for the future is never easy.

You have to save up for a house, a family, make sure you’re contributing to a pension, have a nice cash sum ready for a rainy day… wait, those aren’t football club problems, they’re mine.

For Liverpool, it’s making sure they have talented youngsters among their ranks, some of which have to potential to go on to challenge for a place in the first team squad, and some of which will be raised to be sold on and finance transfers from elsewhere.

It’s something that the Anfield club have been very active in doing over the course of the last 12 months – as well as the local talent they have been nurturing from a young age, Liverpool have been bringing in some of Europe’s finest youth talents in the hope they can be developed into either future stars or a useful commodity for trade.

Here are five of the highly-regarded youngsters in which the Reds have invested over the last year:

Ki-Jana Hoever

Good old ‘Henry’ Hoever is already pretty well-known to Liverpool fans, having been fast-tracked to his senior debut in the FA Cup defeat to Wolves at the beginning of last month, despite being just 16 at the time.

He’s since had his 17th birthday and is continuing to impress in the youth teams. A strong, mobile defender, equally comfortable at centre back or on the right, he was signed from the talent factory at Ajax last summer and is a real prospect for the future.

With Dejan Lovren turning 30 in the summer, speculation about the future of Joel Matip at the club and Joe Gomez’s ongoing injury problems, we could well see the young Dutchman more involved in the senior setup next season as cover in the middle of the defence.

Bobby Duncan

Forward Bobby Duncan is the academy’s resident goal machine, and another who is becoming more and more familiar to Reds fans.

He is another signed from another youth system – that of Premier League rivals Manchester City – despite being a local lad born in Whiston and raised in Huyton, and is the cousin of Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard.

After 20 goals so far this campaign, the 17-year-old is regarded as a potential star striker of the future, though his path to the first team isn’t so clear – he must first prove that he can do it when he makes the step-up to the u23s next season.

Isaac Christie-Davies

Less widely-know than the other two, Christie-Davies was also brought in last summer from a Premier League rival.

The young midfielder took the well-trodden path from London to Liverpool, following in the footsteps of Daniel Sturridge and Dominic Solanke before him to join from Chelsea, only he was free as his contract with the Blues had expired.

At 21 years of age he’s older and more experienced than Duncan and Hoever, and has been more involved in training with senior players – like the latter, he was also named on the bench for the Wolves game.

It’s unlikely that the club would have brought in a player a few months before his 21st birthday if they didn’t think he had the talent to make an impact on the first team, so it’s likely we can expect to see a lot more of the box-to-box player in the future.

Matteo Rittacio

Another recruit, this time from the USA, who arrived at Anfield in the summer as a 16-year-old prospect from soccer academy BW Gottschee (us neither).

Probably the least-known name on this list, the New York native studied his craft at the same facility as PSG starlet Timothy Weah, the son of Ballon d’Or winner George and currently on loan at Scottish giants Celtic.

It has been said that the midfielder has settled in well on Merseyside despite making the move to an entirely new continent while so young, with u18s manager Barry Lewtas praising his adaptability and character for being able to fit in so well.

Whether or not Rittacio can live up to his ability or is simply a marketing stunt or vanity project from Liverpool’s American owners, only time will tell.

Billy Koumetio

The most recent arrival here, who was snapped up by the club towards the end of the January transfer window from French side US Orleans.

The 16-year-old was on the books of heavyweights Lyon as a kid, before he was signed by Lorient when he was 11 – he then went on to Orleans before a successful trial on Merseyside last November persuaded the Reds to invest in the promising young defender.

Beyond that, little is known about Koumetio – he will play with the u18s for the foreseeable future though, should his development be positive, he will be crafted into a ready-made partner for Hoever and replacement for VIrgil van Dijk in the future, as he is a left-sided central defender.

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