Liverpool gave Champions League a boost in pursuit of next Curtis Jones or Mason Mount
The benefits of Liverpool qualifying for the Champions League on the final day of the season are obvious.
They have had financial certainty, for example, to sign Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig just days after the end of the season, and are likely to sign more players before the end of the summer.
There’s also the consideration of being able to look forward to next season again, which begins with a possible Premier League title tilt and a Champions League group stage, at least, in preview.
But an underestimated and forgotten advantage – understandably, given the broader significance of the achievement – is the simultaneous return of a competition which has already helped Liverpool immensely.
Along with the Champions League comes the UEFA Youth League, a tournament which was canceled this season due to the Covid pandemic, but which is expected to return in 2020/21, as has been discussed on the last show of the Blood Red Academy.
Normally, the tournament runs alongside the senior competition, with a U19 team playing the same teams in the group stage as the senior team, at home and away as the first team does, but earlier in the day. the day before the main evening event. .
This season the tournament was canceled entirely, but the original plan, once it was determined that traveling to other countries for the youth teams was an unnecessary addition that could be avoided, was to ensure that the competition takes place in March over a week. period or so long, similar to how the U21 Euros are going this week.
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This could still be the way forward for next season, with uncertainty over international travel lingering, although no decision has yet been made.
Either way, Liverpool will benefit if the tournament’s organizers, UEFA, can find a way to organize it.
Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott were the beneficiaries in 2019/20 as the games unfolded, both advancing in their development.
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Jones has played four times in the competition, scoring five goals and assisting one, pushing his numbers to the next level and only missing the other matches because he was needed on the first team bench, while Elliott scored once and assisted five times in seven matches.
Liverpool were controversially knocked out of the competition by Benfica in the round of 16, when Jones, who scored a hat-trick against Napoli in a 7-0 win, was with the senior squad, and the Reds had two men – Sepp van den Berg and Leighton Clarkson – sent off harshly.
But the opportunity to play in European competition was crucial.
Dealing with new challenges such as alternative styles of football, as well as adjusting to traveling and playing abroad regularly, are crucial things for young players to overcome if they are to become senior Liverpool stars.
The tournament played in its entirety provides the platform for these things, while even in a shorter, condensed form, as it would have been this season and could well be next, is still hugely beneficial.
For U19s like Tyler Morton and James Balagizi, who have missed those European experiences this season, the return of the UEFA Youth League next season – even in a modified and shorter format – could be vital to their development as it was the case for Jones and Elliott, who have proven their potential as a first team on a stage bigger than that provided by the national week-to-week schedule.
Andreas Christensen and Mason Mount became the first players to win the UEFA Youth League (in 2015 and 2016) and then the Champions League when Chelsea beat Man City in the senior final last weekend.
Liverpool are hoping that some of their stars can soon follow suit.