Kaide Gordon – Liverpool’s next star? by Declan Carr
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is known for his tendency to give young players an opportunity to make their mark on his first-team squad. Numerous academy prospects have cemented places in the first-team at Anfield under his leadership. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been instrumental to the club’s recent success, Curtis Jones impressed when he was given his chance last season and Harvey Elliott had nailed down his place before his injury. The latest wonderkid hoping to follow in their footsteps and make the step-up to the senior squad permanently, is 16 year-old Kaide Gordon.
He is so young that when Rafael Benitez was appointed in June 2004, Gordon was not born for another four months. He became just the fifth-youngest player to make a competitive appearance for Liverpool in midweek at just 16 years and 351 days. His performance will have left many Reds fans wanting to know more about him and how far he can go. So, who is Kaide Gordon?
Signed for £1.1 million, with a potential for that fee to rise to £3.4 million, Liverpool reportedly beat Manchester United and Tottenham to the highly-rated Derby academy graduate’s signature. Naturally a right winger, he can also operate on the left of a front three, or as an 8 or a 10. According to his former academy director at Derby, Darren Wassall, he has “great balance, awareness, touch… and can do anything with a football.” His wand of a left-foot has already led to comparisons with Mohamed Salah as a result of his tendency to cut inside, his willingness to take his man on and his goal-scoring ability. At Derby from the age of 6, he made his first two appearances for England under-16s in February 2020 before Wayne Rooney, England’s all-time leading goal-scorer gave him his first senior start in the Championship in December 2020. He was not disappointed labelling him as a “fantastic player” and revealing that he trained “at the same level, if not, to a better level to a lot of the other first-team players.” His Anfield career began in the under-18s, and after a barren spell of four games without a goal, he exploded, scoring six and assisting two goals in his next four games. He was then promoted to the under-23s and scored on his PL2 debut in a nineteen minute cameo against Leicester u23s. He has picked up where he left off this season, scoring two and contributing one assist in three appearances and earning his first cap for England under-18s. After watching him in training at the academy, Liverpool assistant manager Pepjin Lijnders declared that the prospect has “fire in each moment that he touches the ball” and labelled the 16 year-old “a typical Liverpool Football Club winger because he has goals and he has speed.” He is one of the hottest prospects to come out of the academy at Liverpool since Trent Alexander-Arnold, who sees himself as a mentor to the “frightening” talent. The 22 year-old took Gordon under his wing during pre-season in Austria and France, where he impressed further.
In his first senior start for the Reds, he completed the full 90 minutes at Carrow Road and finished the match with an 89% pass accuracy, 2 key passes and 2 fouls drawn. The debutant was unfortunate not to score; first, when he dribbled past Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour and released a low drive that sailed just wide and then when he skied a Divock Origi cross over the bar. He could also have had an assist but Origi fired agonisingly wide from his fantastic weighted through ball. After the match, Jurgen Klopp told journalists that the youngster has “a lot of things to learn, but a lot of things are already there” and that he is “really happy to have him around… and will treat him carefully.” It is clear that the German rates Gordon very-highly but will not rush his ascension to the first-team, however, injuries could force his hand and the former Derby man will be ready to take his chance like Trent and Curtis. Alternatively, he could find himself following Harvey Elliott’s path to the first team, going on loan to get senior football in the Championship, where he already has some experience.
Of course, at such a young age, he needs to improve his physicality, and he needs to learn to use his weak foot more (he very rarely uses his right foot and constantly cuts onto his left). This is not too much of an issue though, as training with elite attackers such as Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will develop his game massively, and training with the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate should serve to improve his physicality. His ability to rise through the ranks at such a quick speed means he should progress to first-team football pretty quickly just like Alexander-Arnold, Elliott and Jones did. If he adapts at anywhere near the speed he has through the youth ranks, Jurgen Klopp might have a dilemma on his hands sooner than later and he might just have a ready-made Salah replacement when the Egyptian leaves or hangs up his boots.