Klopp sees "wonderful signs" from Liverpool new-boy Solanke
The 19-year-old, who swapped Chelsea for Anfield this summer, made his Reds bow on Wednesday night and provided glimpses of his quality
The players huddled around Jurgen Klopp on the Prenton Park pitch as the manager delivered his final instructions to the group starting the second half of Liverpool’s opening pre-season friendly against Tranmere Rovers.
As they dispersed, the 50-year-old put his arms around Dominic Solanke, offering quick encouragement as he was about to make his Reds bow.
The forward, who joined the Merseysiders following the expiration of his contract with Chelsea, was the Golden Ball winner at the Under-20 World Cup and so wouldn’t have been tense about a training match.
He was, however, itching to make a positive first impression. And he did.
Not much can be gleaned from these warm-up fixtures, especially the domestic ones at the start of preparations, but it does supply some evidence as to a player’s stylistic make-up.
Solanke was sharp, fast in mind and feet, always on the move and seeking out possession.
A neat touch and slick turn were matched with quick closing down and tracking back.
Liverpool’s third in the 4-0 victory was born out of the 19-year-old's fine work. A robust shot on the swivel was pushed away by Tranmere goalkeeper Scott Davies, but only to the path of Pedro Chirivella, who converted.
When asked what Solanke’s role at the club would be in the upcoming campaign, Klopp said: “He decides that himself. He is a young lad and that means it’s a long-term project. I have all the time in the world, but if he brings a little bit of a rush with his development, then everything is good.
“I saw a few wonderful signs tonight. Everybody in England watched the U20 World Cup – that was fantastic football.
“He is an offensive player, a really skilled boy. He has to improve, of course, but a lot of things are already really good: first touch, movement, a lot of things. So it’s about him, if you want, and the situation.”
Antonio Conte bristled when he was asked about Solanke’s future in February as the kid who Chelsea packaged as their rising superstar knew he’d hit the ceiling at Stamford Bridge and wanted out.
The Premier League champions are furious at having lost such a massive talent to a rival and want a record training compensation fee of £10 million for the teenager.
They are unlikely to be awarded such a weighty amount up front by a tribunal, with Liverpool’s valuation at £3m given he was never a fixture in the Blues' first team.
At Anfield, Solanke knows that the pathway - or motorway given the advancement of academy graduates Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn - has no major blocks.
Klopp will aid not stifle his progress. “I will not avoid his development, so the moment he is strong enough he is there,” said the Reds boss.
“Where he is training isn’t already decided because I didn’t decide for all of the team, but he will train with us as often as makes sense and is possible. And where he will play, we will see.”
Solanke has been desperate to be rewarded on merit and effort at club level; Wednesday’s cameo was the start of just that.