Kaide Gordon: Liverpool wonderkid wowing Klopp after £3m move

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Goal

It has not taken long for Kaide Gordon to make his mark at Liverpool.

He only joined the Reds in January, but the 16-year-old can already count Jurgen Klopp among his fans.

Gordon has certainly impressed after being called up to Klopp’s senior squad for the pre-season training camp in Austria. After appearing in a 30-minute mini-game against FC Wacker Innsbruck last week, he caught the eye again when playing 45 minutes against Bundesliga side Mainz on Friday, alongside the likes of Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino and Curtis Jones.

“A proper player,” is how one Anfeld source describes the teenager. Gordon is a lithe, skilful winger with a smooth first touch, excellent balance and a pleasing tendency to play with his head up. No wonder Klopp likes him.

And no wonder, either, that Liverpool were so keen to sign him from Championship club Derby County at the turn of the year, in a deal which could eventually cost them as much as £3 million ($4m).

“Our loss is definitely Liverpool’s gain,” says Darren Wassall, Derby’s academy director to Goal. “Kaide is a special talent, and it’s great to see that he’s already doing well and making an impression. Everyone here is buzzing for him.”

Wassall saw Gordon’s development close-up at Derby, and is well acquainted with the family having also worked with each of his three brothers.

“There’s Kellan, who plays at [League Two side] Mansfield,” he says, “Then there’s Keldon, who left us at Under-16s and now plays non-league.

“After then there’s Kaide, and finally Chase, who is with our U14s. It’s a footballing family, for sure!”

Kaide is the one who has emerged quickest, however. He has already played in the Championship, appearing as a late substitute against Birmingham City last December.

"He deserved it," said Derby boss Wayne Rooney, one of Gordon's boyhood heroes. "I brought him up to train for a week to see how he reacted and he was one of the best trainers.

"He's been training at the same level - if not to a better level - than a lot of the other players."

A month later, Gordon was heading for Merseyside.

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“We were all devastated when he told us he was leaving,” Wassall says. “Because not only is he a great kid, but he’s a joy to watch as well.

“He excites you as a player, and those are the kind of people you want to be around as a coach.”

Gordon did not take long to find his feet at Liverpool. He settled in well with Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s U18 team, scoring six times in four appearances at the back end of the season, and he finished the campaign by featuring for Barry Lewtas’ U23s away at Leicester City.

“The boy can play,” was Lewtas’ verdict when he spoke to Goal afterwards.

Now he is with the first team, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk on a daily basis. The word from Austria is that the youngster has acquitted himself well, in what has been an intense few weeks.

“He certainly won’t be in awe,” Wassall says. “Because of his ability, he has that confidence that he feels he should be mixing with the best. He’s not shy or nervous, he embraces that challenge.

“Even the fact that he was willing to make that move to Liverpool, when he was still at school, tells you something about him. He knows where he wants to get to, and he wants to get there quickly.”

So what is it that marks Gordon, who does not turn 17 until October, out as such a special talent, then?

“In terms of an attacking force, he’s got everything really,” Wassall says. “He’s got great balance, awareness, touch. Left footers always seem to be blessed with a wand, and he’s certainly got that!

“He’s very quiet off the pitch, but on it he comes alive. He just loves playing football, and when you see him play, it looks easy.

“You can’t coach some of the things he has. He has such a good footballing brain, and his decision-making is very good. There are a lot of players who have great technique or great pace, but they don’t know when to pass it, when to dribble, when to play one-touch. Kaide does.

"He keeps the game simple, while knowing he has everything in his locker. He can do anything with a football, but he makes the right decision more often than not, which is what the best players do.”

He adds: “He can play anywhere across the attack as well. We played him on both wings in a 4-3-3, but he can definitely play as a No.10 or a No.8, because he’s athletic and he handles the ball so well. He can go both ways, which is a huge asset for any attacking player."

An exciting prospect, then, for Liverpool fans, although it is only fair to warn that there have been other teenage prodigies at Anfield in recent years that have not quite been able to live up to the big billing.

Not everyone is a Rooney, a Trent Alexander-Arnold or a Steven Gerrard, naturally. Talent at 16 does not always equate to first-team progress by 21.

Gordon’s potential, though, is vast, and Wassall believes there is every chance he will have a very strong career in the game.

“Just keep challenging him,” he says, “That’s the big thing with players like Kaide, they need challenging all the time, so that it doesn’t get too easy.

“If it’s down to ability, then Kaide will have a very good career. The rest is down to him; how he handles himself, how he looks after himself, how he deals with praise and criticism.

“If he gets those right, then his talent can take him anywhere.”

For now, Liverpool fans can enjoy Gordon's eye-catching cameos with the first team, knowing he is likely to return to the academy when the season gets under way next month.

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After that; who knows? Maybe a run in the U23s, some exposure in the Football League Trophy perhaps? Possibly even a first-team opportunity in the Carabao Cup?

Wassall has another idea.

“We’ll have him back on loan, if Liverpool fancy it!” he jokes. “That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?”