The Dutch international is enthused by the Reds’ desire to promote their talented kids rather than solely spending in the transfer market
Gini Wijnaldum has applauded Liverpool’s desire to balance their drive for immediate success with a blueprint for the future as the club emphasise youth development.
The 26-year-old, whose foundations in the game took shape at the esteemed academies of Sparta Rotterdam and Feyenoord, believes the Reds have made an inspired choice to actively bridge the gap between their most promising talents and the first team.
Jurgen Klopp’s enthusiasm to promote the club’s young prospects is facilitated by the Talent Group, run by Pepijn Lijnders.
Through that project, the best players from the Academy aged between 14 and 21 train at Melwood once a week, with the manager intently watching on.
“When I met Pep with Jurgen and spoke to him, he explained to me the club’s vision for the youth and giving them the chance to train and learn from the first team,” Wijnaldum told Goal.
“I was really happy about this, because it is important for clubs to grow their own players. The players who train with us now are really talented and it’s fantastic that they have the opportunity to improve themselves and see what it takes to be a player of the first team.”
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn have represented Liverpool this season – the latter becoming their youngest-ever goalscorer – after showing the right attitude and aptitude at Melwood.
Harry Wilson has also been given opportunities while Yan Dhanda, Toni Gomes, Nathan Phillips, Matty Virtue, Paulo Alves and Adam Lewis were part of the club’s warm-weather training camp in Tenerife.
Wijnaldum, who made his Feyenoord debut at 16 years and 148 days – a record – believes youngsters are largely ignored by the Premier League’s elite due to financial superiority.
“I must say, it’s much easier to reach the first team in Holland than it is in England, especially if you play for a big club,” the midfielder admitted.
“Here in the Premier League, every side has money to buy players so my impression is that they don’t really look at youth, because they can just pay for the one who can do the job immediately.
“In England, there’s a pressure to buy players for now and not think so much about later. In Holland, they don’t have the money to compete to buy the top players to make a difference immediately, so they create good players by giving youth the chance to play in the first team.
“I think it’s already a positive thing if you reach the first team in England, especially at a top club, because of how difficult it is.”
Wijnaldum, who flicked the ball to Woodburn in the 2-0 League Cup victory over Leeds United as the Wales international made history, is enjoying his evolution from an Academy graduate to now helping those who break through.
“When I see a young player come in to Melwood and speak to them about how old they are, how the early stages of their career is going so far and what they would like to achieve, I always think back to my own experience,” he said.
“It reminds you of what point you were in your development then, what were the challenges and the lessons so it helps when you give advice.
“What I like about them, is that when you speak to them, they really listen. They are hungry for advice and it reminds me that now that I am one of the older players having to speak to them and teach them.
“I still enjoy football like I’m a kid though; I enjoy all the challenges and that we can all express ourselves individually, but in a way that makes the team better.
“That will never change for me and I hope the young players never lose that feeling too.”