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Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Liverpool’s 20 loanees including Van den Berg and Morton return – how did it go and what next?

By Vaseline May31,2024

Liverpool will welcome back a host of loan players this summer, which means decisions need to be made about their futures and next developmental steps.

Everything back at base has changed since they departed for destinations across Europe, with new head coach Arne Slot now in charge after nine seasons of Jurgen Klopp. The manager’s departure offers everybody a fresh start and a chance to try to play their way into Slot’s plans for both the short and long term.

When Liverpool start pre-season in July, they will be relying on youngsters to be part of first-team training because of the absence of players who were involved in the upcoming European Championship and Copa America national-team tournaments — giving those who are at the Kirkby training ground a real opportunity to impress Slot and his staff.

Conor Bradley and Jarell Quansah are the latest examples of young Liverpool players earning regular first-team opportunities. Bobby Clark, Jayden Danns, James McConnell and Lewis Koumas all got a taste of it, too. Those who were out on loan will have been watching on, hoping it will be their turn next.

The Athletic has looked at the 20 players returning, how they got on at the clubs who borrowed them and what may lie ahead.


Nathaniel Phillips returns from a successful loan spell at Cardiff City during the second half of the Championship season. It put him back on track after an uninspiring spell up to New Year in Scotland with Celtic, where he started only four matches. After a debut off the bench, he played virtually every minute for the Welsh side and manager Erol Bulut was full of praise for the centre-back.

The 27-year-old is heading into the final year of his contract and is desperate to keep playing regular football so will explore a permanent move away.

Fellow centre-back Sepp van den Berg has not played for Liverpool’s first team since February 2020, and has only made four appearances since signing the previous summer, but his impressive loan spell at Mainz in Germany this season has seen his parent club value him at £20million.

His temporary move to Schalke, another Bundesliga side, last season was ruined by a serious ankle injury that kept him out for six months and they were relegated to the second tier. The 22-year-old Dutch youth international returned to Germany and played a pivotal role in helping Mainz, where Klopp played and began his managerial career, retain their top-flight status, making 35 appearances in all competitions.

He will be given a chance in pre-season but is not short of suitors. In the Premier League, Brentford and promoted Southampton are interested, as are another Bundesliga team, Wolfsburg, and Ajax in his homeland.

The example of Quansah this season shows there is a pathway to follow at Anfield, with a vacancy at centre-back after the departure of Joel Matip.


Sepp van den Berg playing for Mainz this month (Selim Sudheimer/Getty Images)

Fabio Carvalho’s move to RB Leipzig last summer looked perfect for the now 21-year-old, whose 2022-23 debut season at Liverpool stalled before the turn of the year. The German side were keen on signing the attacking midfielder permanently, suggesting when the loan was agreed he would feature heavily. Instead, his 15 appearances totalled only 360 minutes of playing time including three starts, leading to an early recall in January.

A surprising move to Hull City was then agreed, as the Championship side hoped he could help their play-off hopes. Carvalho scored nine goals and provided two assists in 20 appearances although Hull fell one place and three points short of a top-six spot.

Again, he will be given the chance to impress in pre-season. Slot’s former club Feyenoord have held an interest in Carvalho which suggests he is a player the Dutchman likes, and if 4-2-3-1 is Liverpool’s new system, it should suit the Fulham academy graduate more. There are a lot of players competing for those positions, though, and if Carvalho can’t rise up the pecking order, an exit, either temporary once more or permanent will be considered.

Tyler Morton was already excelling at Hull when Carvalho arrived and he recorded another impressive season at Championship level, and went on to make 41 appearances in all competitions, with 35 starts. The defensive midfielder’s two successful loan spells in the second tier at two promotion-chasing teams — he was at Blackburn Rovers as they also finished seventh in 2022-23 — indicate he is ready for a challenge at a higher level.

Morton has matured and developed since his introduction to Klopp’s senior side at age 19 in November 2021, and will have the chance to impress Slot during pre-season. What happens then will determine the next steps. If he is not part of the immediate plans another loan, to a lower-ranked Premier League club, is one possibility, or a permanent move, ideally also to another top-flight side.

Owen Beck enjoyed an excellent season on loan at Dundee which came in two parts, after he was briefly recalled in January because of injuries to left-backs Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas. The 21-year-old had been a shining light for the Scottish Premiership side and they were delighted to welcome him back.

Beck’s season was ended by a groin injury in March, but what he did in his 25 league appearances was enough to earn a place in the PFA Scotland Premiership Team of the Year. His form had caught the eye of Klopp, leading to that recall, and the challenge now is for him to do the same during Slot’s first pre-season.

Slot is keen to weigh up and assess the options at left-back, and Luke Chambers will also be part of that conversation. The 19-year-old was thrust into the limelight because of those injuries to Robertson and Tsimikas, with his first senior start coming in the Europa League against Toulouse in October. He was then loaned to Wigan Athletic of League One, English football’s third tier, in January and impressed their manager Shaun Maloney while alternating between central defence and left-back.

Calvin Ramsay’s luck since he signed from Aberdeen in summer 2022 continues to show no signs of turning for the better.

After a debut season ruined by a knee injury, 2023-24 offered a chance for the right-back to get back on track via a loan move. But having been farmed out to Preston North End of the Championship, a further knee issue kept him out until November. Two appearances followed, before illness struck and he played no further games for them.

He returned to Liverpool in January and was sent to Bolton Wanderers of League One, with the hopes the move could bring the same success fellow young Anfield right-back Conor Bradley enjoyed there last season. He didn’t. Ramsay totalled three appearances and regularly missed out on the matchday squad as Bolton pushed unsuccessfully for automatic promotion. He will be another aiming to impress in pre-season, but the 20-year-old needs to play, so another loan looks likely.

Goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros will return to Merseyside as a double winner after helping Sturm Graz be crowned Austrian Bundesliga champions and win their domestic cup, ending a decade of dominance by Red Bull Salzburg, and having been named in the Czech Republic squad for this summer’s Euros.

The 22-year-old was a mid-season addition, joining in January after signing a new contract with Liverpool and he missed only one game through injury after arriving. He finished with 21 appearances and got his experience in European competition via the knockout phase of the Conference League.

Jaros joined the academy at age 16, so qualifies as a homegrown player for the Premier League and Champions League. That could be significant for his future with Caoimhin Kelleher’s future uncertain and No 3 goalkeeper Adrian out of contract.

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Liverpool had six ’keepers out on loan gaining first-team experience this season at various levels of the game.

Similarly to Jaros, highly-thought-of Brazil youth international Marcelo Pitaluga signed a new deal before joining League of Ireland side St Patrick’s Athletic in January. The 21-year-old however, was dropped after four league games and only made seven appearances in total. Despite the uncertainty in Liverpool’s senior goalkeeping department — Pitaluga has trained with the group frequently — he has not put a strong case up for being ready to step up permanently.

Harvey Davies, 20, also ended up out of the team at the end of the season during his loan at Crewe Alexandra, who pushed for promotion from League Two but were beaten in the play-off final. He played 27 of the 46 regular-season league games, but lost his place in the side twice. Davies will take plenty of experience from what was his first loan and another one next season appears a good idea.


Davies at Crewe in November (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Reece Trueman, who turned 19 this month, gained valuable experience during the second half of the season on loan to Colwyn Bay side, although they were relegated from the top division of the Welsh league. Jakub Ojrzynski’s loan at Dutch second-tier club Den Bosch was on a similarly positive path individually, but the 21-year-old made only 11 appearances after losing his place in the team.

Luke Hewitson’s loan at non-League’s Stalybridge Celtic, an eighth-tier club, brought him plenty of invaluable experience. However, the 19-year-old has already announced his departure from Liverpool via social media as his contract is about to expire.

Returning to outfield players, another set to move on is Adam Lewis, who is also due to be out of contract this summer. The 24-year-old spent a second straight season on loan to League Two’s Newport County, making 30 appearances in this one. He may find a permanent home at the League Two side, with the left-back admitting in March that he would “love” to join permanently.

Anderson Arroyo is another 24-year-old full-back whose future is expected to lie away from Anfield. With no UK work permit, the Colombian’s stints this season at second-division Spanish sides FC Andorra and Burgos FC were his seventh and eighth loans since being signed in 2018. He made a combined 26 appearances for those clubs.

It has been four years since Billy Koumetio — inevitably nicknamed ‘Billy The Kid’ — caught the eye with his physique and performances as a 17-year-old during the 2020-21 pre-season. He looked set to be a future star of Liverpool’s back line but his development has stagnated, with the past two seasons consisting of three loans that haven’t worked out.

Koumetio had limited opportunities at Austria Vienna last season, his 11 appearances leading to a recall in the January, and it was the same at Dunkirk of the French second division in the first half of this one, as he played in only nine games. He moved to Blackburn of the Championship, following in the footsteps of the likes of Harvey Elliott and Morton who have had success on loans there, but failed to make a league appearance, playing just once in the FA Cup.

With his contract heading into his final season, Koumetio is part of a group of 21-year-olds at the club who may have decisions to make on their futures because of their age. They need to be playing football, whether that is permanently away from Liverpool or via the loan market.

Dominic Corness turned that age this month and the midfielder had a promising loan spell in Switzerland, making 21 appearances for top-flight Yverdon Sport before injury ended his season in April. James Norris spent the season on loan with League Two neighbours Tranmere Rovers and the defender ended it in the side after an up-and-down campaign.

James Balagizi is set to turn 21 in September and will want to get back on track after struggling to impose himself on loan at Wigan in the first half of the season before suffering a hamstring injury, and only making seven substitute appearances at Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock after going there in January. His fellow midfielder Luca Stephenson, also 21 that month, fared better in the fourth tier with Barrow, featuring 34 times in a team who just missed the play-offs and looking ready for a step up, even if via another loan, next season.

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(Top photos: Beck, Van den Berg and Morton; all Getty Images)

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