Jurgen Klopp praised the performance of 16-year-old defender Ki-Jana Hoever, after the Dutch under-17 international featured off the substitutes’ bench to make his Liverpool debut during their 2-1 FA Cup defeat by Wolves.
Hoever joined the Reds permanently last August, after nine years with Ajax’s famed youth academy. Having already tallied 14 appearances for Holland’s youth sides, he’s notched up 12 appearances at youth level to date. This is across three competitions – the UEFA Youth League, U18 Premier League and Premier League 2.
Dejan Lovren’s hamstring injury forced Klopp into an early change after just six minutes at Molineux. Hoever made history by becoming the club’s third youngest debutant ever, after Jerome Sinclair and Jack Robinson.
Lovren’s injury woes add to Liverpool’s defensive concerns as Virgil van Dijk is their only fit centre-back for the coming weeks. Joe Gomez (leg) and Joel Matip (collarbone) are both still recovering from their respective injuries. However, Klopp is not expected to make a transfer offer for another defender this month.
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Post-match, Klopp stressed the fact that despite making nine changes to the side who lost away against Manchester City, injuries and the rotation dilemma forced his hand into alterations.
He was quoted as saying: “It doesn’t make sense to bring a 16-year-old boy from the start. We wait until he’s completely ready, but he did well – came on and was good. It’s only about if you’re good enough, not how old you are.”
Ahead of their clash with Brighton on Saturday, Liverpool sit four points clear at the top of the Premier League. This cup defeat is naturally a frustrating one, but allows them one less competition to focus their energies on – with higher priorities to worry about.
Hoever wasn’t the only teenager making his competitive debut either. Curtis Jones and Rafael Camacho both started, but Klopp said it’s not surprising given progress shown in recent training sessions.
“We’re not here to be new world-record holders for the youngest team. The boys are around, train with us because we think they’re good enough. We play 10 v 10, they are on the other team and believe me, they play much better than they did tonight. Just it was not possible here.”