Liverpool have been chosen as one of 16 elite footballing academies to compete in the inaugural NextGen Series; also competing are the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan, Manchester City and Ajax. For those who have only just become aware of this competition, it is basically a Champions League for U19 players. For more information visit the NextGen website, or check out this very informative Q&A session from the Mail Online. Liverpool kick-off the competition on 17.08.11 against Sporting Lisbon.
In my opinion the NextGen Series will be pivotal to the commercial and footballing future of Liverpool Football Club. We cannot afford to take this competition lightly, as I fear some of the clubs involved may do. This competition must take priority over the Reserves’ league and the U18’s league, it is imperative we do not send a weakened squad of trialists and reserve misfits, we must try to view this competition as we do the League Cup, in many ways; we cannot afford to dismiss it as an inconvenience. Eligible for this competition are the likes of: Raheem Sterling, John Flannagan, Jack Robinson, Jonjo Shelvey, Suso, Danny Wilson, Connor Coady and Dani Pacheco (Teams may include 3 over age players, who are 20 on August 17) .If it were up to me I would play them all and prioritize this competition, allow me to outline my argument why.
If we were to include this caliber of player in the NextGen Series it would increase the media interest in the competition (Many journalists are very eager to watch Raheem Sterling play, for example) and thus make it a more prestigious competition to win. Therefore if we were to win, which I believe we would be favorites to do if we included these players, it would increase the academy’s exposure and confirm the elite status of our academy. Winning this competition, and the added media attention that would come with it, means Liverpool FC would be in a strong position to attract the rising stars of European football. An influx of Europe’s top young players could mean at best that Liverpool FC would once again dominate European Football, at worst it would mean the Club could generate more income from selling these players on after they mature.
We are also approaching a season where Liverpool FC have a dangerously bloated squad, and no senior European competitions, so many of our young stars may find it hard to get a game in the first team. In my opinion keeping are young players to play in this competition, rather than shipping them out on loan, would give them useful experience of a European competition, against high-level players in top squads; thus meaning they will be less daunted when they eventually make the step up into the first team and find themselves walking out into the Nou Camp or the San Siro, for example.