Liverpool's gamble on Bajcetic may be the key to a new dynasty for Klopp

Spanish teenager's impact can rejuvenate the Anfield giants and their pursuit of trophies

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What makes Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola the best of the best is that they created successful footballing dynasties with more than one set of players.

Ferguson built three title-winning sides at Manchester United, while Guardiola has dominated English and Spanish football for a sustained period with both Manchester City and Barcelona.

Jurgen Klopp is deservedly seen as one of the best coaches to ever grace the game, but to be held in the same regard as Ferguson or Guardiola, he now needs to revive a Liverpool squad past its peak and shape a new group capable of rekindling their pursuit of trophies once more.

That is why 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic has been thrust into the first team quicker than many expected. Teams can go stale quickly in the unrelenting Premier League. Just last season Liverpool went agonisingly close to an unprecedented quadruple, but the same set of players, minus Sadio Mane, have flopped this time around.

Klopp had to gamble to have any hope of starting another Anfield revolution. The energy and fire in Bajcetic is just what the doctor ordered.

“He’s a great player and person, he always tries to work hard,” Mohamed Salah said of Bajcetic after Monday’s Merseyside derby. “Since he started playing for us, he has been our best player.”

Every team has its cycle. Klopp assembled this current crop several years ago, helping create a near-imperious side capable of brilliant football. In any other era, this red machine would have won two or three more Premier League titles, had they not had to deal with the closest thing to a perfect team ever witnessed in the English top flight – Manchester City.

Liverpool v Everton player ratings

A first league title in 30 years and a Champions League crown are more than par for the course, however. Creating such a side meant that there was never the need for major squad overhaul. The average age of the roster has slowly been creeping up, but in the modern era, that is not so serious.

That is just what is so baffling about Liverpool’s sharp decline this season. If one key player from last term’s superhuman efforts had endured a drastic dip in form, the effect on results would not be quite so damaging. Plentiful stars from last year have fallen off a cliff - Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho the prime culprits – and that is something that cannot be countered.

Klopp has given his key personnel time to rekindle something resembling the best, hoping the squad downturn was a temporary one. The time to act, however, was upon him ahead of Monday’s Merseyside derby.

Liverpool supporters normally come bounding through the Shankly Gates whenever their local rivals are in town, given their incredible derby record, but there was a real feel of trepidation etched across red faces pre-match. Evertonians sensed blood.

For such a crucial game, where defeat could cause lasting harm to Liverpool’s top-four hopes, Klopp would have been forgiven for going with experience, especially in midfield.

Not this time. Bajcetic has impressed every time he has donned the Liverpool red since his introduction into the team early this campaign. He was ready, representing Klopp’s best hope of reviving his gegenpressing principles – the reason he is where he is today.

Bajcetic was exactly what Henderson was at the height of Liverpool’s relentlessness – omnipresent. He covered 11 kilometres against Everton before being substituted, more than any other home player during his time on the pitch.

He also pressed his opponent 35 times in the match – the sort of numbers Liverpool relied upon in their title-winning campaign.

The teenager’s crowning moment came when he won the ball back in the run-up to Cody Gakpo’s game-clinching second goal. This sort of impact is how the archetypal Klopp goals always started and would have delighted his manager.

It is still very early days, but if Klopp is going to have a shot at a new dynasty, he will need his gamble to pay off.

Should the fledgling Bajcetic continue to defy his years with a fearlessness that warranted every clap of the standing ovation he received on Monday, playing him ahead of his more experienced, out-of-form squad mates may end up not being much of a risk at all.

Updated: February 18, 2023, 4:13 AM