Jurgen Klopp spelt the situation out early. Dominic Solanke had made a strong impression in his first showing since swapping Chelsea for Liverpool in a 4-0 victory at Tranmere Rovers and the manager declared if he “brings a little bit of a rush with his development, then everything is good.”
That outing at Prenton Park - the club’s opening pre-season friendly - in which the summer recruit had shown “wonderful signs” and created the third goal was only a small sample of his abilities.
Throughout the rest of the preparations for the new campaign, the 19-year-old has continued to maximise his minutes and prove he not only has the attributes for the assertive football Liverpool subscribe to, but knows how to ensure they can be decisive.
Against Crystal Palace in the Asia Cup, Solanke retrieved a flick from Divock Origi, took a touch, and drilled a cracker low into the far corner.
Then at the Olympiastadion, his movement invited Adam Lallana to clip in a lovely ball, which the forward serviced with a looping header beyond Hertha Berlin goalkeeper Rune Jarstein.
For Liverpool’s second in that 3-0 victory, Solanke pressured Fabian Lustenberger, winning back possession to supply Sadio Mane, who in turn set up Gini Wijnaldum.
And as the Merseysiders contested their final pre-season fixture in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium against Athletic Bilbao, the teenager was again twice involved in affecting the 3-1 scoreline.
After a fine run and cutback to Ben Woodburn to put them in front after Roberto Firmino opened the scoring from the spot and Inaki Williams equalised, the attacker demanded a delivery from Ragnar Klavan, meeting it with a superb header to put the game beyond the Spaniards.
Solanke has met and exceeded expectations to offer more than just “a little rush with his development” and it would be unsurprising to see him as a fixture in the senior side.
The Under-20 World Cup winner has not wasted his opportunities to show why Liverpool felt signing him was shrewd business, and conversely, why Chelsea were so maddened by his decision to depart Stamford Bridge for Anfield after turning down a new contract offer.
A tribunal is set to decide the training compensation Antonio Conte’s side will receive for Solanke, but whatever the fee, it will not mask the fact they have surrendered a truly exciting talent to a rival.
Klopp believes Solanke is “ready for adult football,” which is exactly the affirmation the Golden Ball recipient was after but never received from the champions.
Woodburn, meanwhile, displaying wonderful composure and a top finish with his weaker foot, was another impressive youngster for Liverpool as was Ryan Kent.
On the former, Klopp said: “It’s been a hard pre-season for him, he’s still only 17, turns 18 in October, so we try to keep him out as much as possible because we have to treat him like a 17-year-old boy.
“He’s doing really well and everybody can see his skills, but he struggled in the beginning [today], then he changed the game with a nice goal and he was in the game and played really well. That’s how it is - young players have these ups and downs.”
And on Kent, who has no shortage of suitors this summer but has made a case to remain, Klopp added: “I’ve known him for one-and-a-half years and last year he developed unbelievably well and this pre-season is completely different to last pre-season, he’s completely showed up now.”
Firmino, scoring thrice from the spot in two games, dovetailed wonderfully with Mohamed Salah with Philippe Coutinho (sore back), Daniel Sturridge (thigh) and Jordan Henderson (illness) not risked for the fixture.
The other positive for Klopp from Saturday evening’s triumph was another fighting display from Alberto Moreno, who is desperate to illustrate he can still be useful at Anfield. The defender “is 100 per cent back,” according to his manager, “which is very nice after a really difficult year.”
The only nagging concern for Liverpool is their costly errors at the back. The Reds do not give up many chances, but are punished by the limited amount the opposition do create.
Many of the training drills in Hong Kong and Germany centered around making the squad sharper when they cede possession, but they failed to implement their lessons again.
Bilbao broke swiftly after Origi sloppily lost the ball, with neither the midfield nor the rearguard reacting quickly or aggressively enough to avert the danger.
Dejan Lovren’s attempt at a clearance was cut out by Williams, who was not properly covered by Moreno, and the forward was first to reach the loose ball and convert.
Only four goals have been conceded in eight friendly games, but they were all let in too cheaply.
Liverpool cannot spend another season where the brilliance of their sublime attack is undone by brain farts at the back.