Jurgen Klopp has hailed the progress of Liverpool teenager Curtis Jones, and admitted the midfielder has exceeded all expectations at Anfield this season.
Jones, 19, has been in sparkling form for the Reds. He was man of the match in Wednesday’s top-of-the-table clash with Tottenham, emerging as a serious first-team option in the midst of the champions’ injury crisis.
Indeed, the home-grown prospect, who has been at the club since the age of six, has already made 15 appearances this term, more than the 12 he managed in the whole of last season.
And Klopp said that while other young talents – notably defenders Neco Williams and Rhys Williams, and more recently goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher – are being dipped in and out of action, allowed to develop at their own pace, Jones is the exception to the rule, an established Premier League player well before his 20th birthday next month.
“Probably some people will tell you that in Liverpool, you grow up quickly,” Klopp told reporters on Friday. “And I don’t mean the club, I mean the city.
“Curtis is 19 until he enters the pitch. And that’s how they all have to be. Most of the time when a player is 19 you say he’s allowed to make this mistake or that mistake. Every player is allowed to make mistakes, that’s no problem.
But when we speak about the kids we forget Curtis, constantly. Because we don’t see him as a kid anymore.
“But he is. He just has to work hard. Working hard will keep him grounded. It’s all great, and if he does that then the future could be pretty bright.”
Jones is likely to start once more as Liverpool take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday, looking to secure top spot in the Premier League for Christmas.
The Reds will welcome back Joel Matip, who missed the game against Spurs with a back injury.
“He trained yesterday completely normal, so it looks like [he will be available],” Klopp said. “I’m not 100,000 per cent sure, but it looks like it.”
Liverpool head into the weekend boosted by that victory over Tottenham, in which Roberto Firmino netted a last-minute winner.
It was only the third goal the Brazilian has managed this season, but it was reward for Klopp’s unwavering faith in his all-action No.9.
“Yes, Roberto wants to score goals,” Klopp said. “We had conversations about that. It’s not that I tell him he doesn’t have to score goals or that he tells me he can’t score goals.
“You don’t score because you want to. All strikers in the world want to score more, even Mo Salah or Robert Lewandowski. But when a player is only concerned about scoring, then the problems could theoretically start. Luckily we don’t have those.
“Roberto knows about the job he has to do in the game, and in the end it’s important that the team scores.”