Liverpool’s teenage defender Ki-Jana Hoever has come in for glowing praise from manager Jurgen Klopp after his pre-season contributions.
Klopp told LiverpoolFC.com that the 17-year-old, who signed a new long-term contract last week, was “a sensational young player” and was especially pleased with his brief performance in the Reds’ 0-3 defeat to Napoli recently.
Speaking to LiverpoolFC.com, Klopp said: “Ki-Jana is a wonderful kid and a sensational young player who can learn so much. Especially in the Napoli game when he came on, on the left side, it was maybe his best 15 minutes in the pre-season.”
Hoever has made just one competitive appearance for Liverpool’s first team so far, playing for most of the 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Wolves in January.
He performed impressively on the night for the Reds, completing 66 out of 76 passes for an 87% success rate, making two tackles and one interception, completing two dribbles (the most of any Liverpool player that night) and not being dribbled past once [all stats via WhoScored.com].
This Is Anfield awarded him the highest rating of all Liverpool players from that game, noting his “bravery on the ball, playing out of defence when the easy option would’ve been to lump it upfield” as well as his intelligent reading of the game.
Mark Critchley of The Independent was highly impressed with Hoever’s performance in last week’s 3-1 win over Lyon, observing that his “movement, footwork and distribution all caught the eye” and that he offered an excellent foil for Mohamed Salah, as well as supplying one assist.
Another string to the young Dutchman’s bow is the readiness with which he can adapt to any role across the defensive line. He featured at centre-back in the aforementioned FA Cup game at Wolves and has played at right-back throughout pre-season. The majority of his appearances for Liverpool’s youth teams have come from the right-back position (via Transfermarkt).
With just one first team appearance to his name, Hoever doesn’t seem likely to feature regularly for Klopp’s side this season, but his solid pre-season showings could have elevated him into the manager’s consciousness for sporadic action during 2019/20.
He has looked capable of playing at senior level judging by his morsels of first team action so far, while Nathaniel Clyne’s injury leaves a shortage of right-back cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The latter’s emergence from youth team hopeful to first team regular during 2017 is something that Hoever can seek to emulate this season and the signs from his pre-season displays are that he would not look out of place if he features intermittently for Liverpool in the coming months.
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