It will be three years next month since Rhian Brewster’s eight goals helped England win the under-17s World Cup, brought him the Golden Boot and announced the striker as Liverpool’s future. The idea he may not be part of the club’s present has prompted understandable resistance among supporters already concerned at a lack of incomings this summer, although their angst pales alongside the dilemma confronting Brewster. Fight or flight? He is not the first young talent to wrestle with the answer at an elite club, but the predicament at Liverpool in 2020 feels particularly acute.
The Premier League champions, it is worth noting, are not actively looking to sell the gifted 20-year-old but their resolve to keep him could be broken by a significant offer and/or the player asking to go. Aston Villa, Newcastle and Crystal Palace made inquiries before signing alternatives and reducing Brewster’s options but Premier League interest remains. Brighton, for one. A return on loan to Swansea, where the forward scored 11 goals in 22 appearances last season under Steve Cooper, his England coach in 2017, remains a possibility before the Premier League to EFL transfer deadline on 16 October.
A loan would at least spare Liverpool from allegations of cashing in on one of their brightest academy prospects at a time when Jürgen Klopp insists the self-sustaining business model of Fenway Sports Group is more important than ever. But even that move, at this particular and peculiar time, would come with regret for those waiting to see Brewster make his first Premier League appearance in a Liverpool shirt. This season, with its intense demands on leading clubs and heightened risk of injuries, feels like the right time to stick around and wait. Providing there is patience on all sides.
Barring any late training-ground injury or overnight illness we all know what Liverpool’s front line will be for the start of the title defence against Leeds on Saturday. Brewster does too and he will have drawn little encouragement from a pre-season programme when Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané started all four of Liverpool’s friendlies. Even League One Blackpool faced the formidable front three at Anfield last Saturday when, with Brewster on England under-21 duty, Divock Origi offered the only attacking cover in the 7-2 win. All the more reason for Liverpool to resist offers for Brewster, although Klopp is yet to reveal his hand on what he considers the next best step for the youngster’s career.
As Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri can testify, it is complicated enough for an international to move from the margins to the forefront of the manager’s attacking plans at Anfield. Defenders outside the consistent back four face a similar mental test. Predicting his starting lineups would be a nice boost to morale but for the steady rotation in midfield….