Liverpool kept their fans waiting in January 2020, hanging around until deadline day to bring in centre-backs Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak, but their most significant bit of business was perhaps the signing of 16-year-old Kaide Gordon from Derby County.
Described as a ‘fantastic’ player by head coach Wayne Rooney, Gordon arrived in a deal that could be worth up to £3m.
While nobody wants to sell their best, young talents, Derby’s dire financial situation left them no choice but allow him to continue his development elsewhere. But who is 16-year-old Gordon? And what do we know about him?
Here’s what Liverpool can expect from their latest teenage prodigy.
Despite not even being old enough to drive yet, Gordon steered himself into the plans of new boss Rooney and earned himself a first-team debut at Derby, having been named Academy Player of the Season earlier in 2020.
Coming on as a late substitute in Derby’s 4-0 against Birmingham in December made him the fourth-youngest player to debut for the club at just 16 years, two months and 24 days.
Rooney spoke about how impressed with him he was during first-team training and afforded him the chance to shine as a result.
It’s all well and good hyping up youngsters as the ‘next big thing’ but in order to convince your mates, you need to know where he actually plays, right?
Like many of the best forwards, Gordon is a versatile option. Primarily a right winger, his left foot allows him to cut inside and cause havoc when turning defenders inside out, but also allows him to be deployed both on the left flank and down the middle.
He once bagged a hat-trick for Derby against Blackburn in the Under-18 Premier League.
It’s easy to search those stats from this season and see Gordon as the typical outside forward who only hunts for goals; but there’s much more to his game.
A fine dribbler, Gordon is dangerous when running at defenders, with superb close control making it difficult to get the ball off him. Combine that sharp dribbling with a killer final pass in key areas and you have Gordon, which is why his stock is so high.
He’s already shown composure and the ability to pass through the lines, indicating he has a good footballing brain on him. Throw in a bit of physicality and it’s easy to see why he’s highly thought of.
Described as ‘the best 16-year-old in England right now’ by one Premier League club scout, Gordon is already in the national team setup having represented England at youth level.
A regular with the Under-16s, Gordon scored on his debut and his move to Liverpool has only raised his profile to help him knock on the door of higher age groups.
The ‘Gordon’ name isn’t an entirely new one to Derby County or professional football; Kaide’s brother Kellan is an academy graduate with the Rams also.
Kellan currently plies his trade with Mansfield Town, after previously spending time on loan at Swindon and Lincoln. If all else fails for the brothers from here on out, there’s plenty of time to become a siblings wrestling tag team.
Gordon is so good that his ascent to the Liverpool senior squad was pretty much instantaneous. One person he impressed in particular was assistant coach Pep Lijnders, who noted before his first team debut:
“I went to watch U23s training and I see one player and he has fire in each moment he touched the ball! He passes players like they are not standing there, so I call Jurgen [Klopp] immediately like, ‘Wow, we have a new player here!’” Lijnders said.
“He has a goal in him and he has this natural ability to be in the box between the goalposts to score, even when the cross comes from the opposite side, for example. Not many talents have that.
“They have maybe dribbling skills but they don’t have this desire to shoot, to come in the box, to score. So he is a typical Liverpool Football Club winger, in my opinion, because he has goals, he has speed. We really like him and we are really happy he is with us.”
Gordon didn’t have to wait long for his first team debut, as he was picked in the Liverpool side to take on Norwich in the Carabao Cup third round.
Starting alongside Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi, Gordon was selected in a stylish front three, while the remainder of the Reds’ team comprised of some rather more familiar names – including Joe Gomez, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ibrahima Konate.