It’s taken a while but Rhian Brewster finally looks set for a Premier League appearance at Anfield.
Less than three weeks into his Sheffield United career, Brewster finds himself back among familiar faces. A friend for so long, now an enemy for 90 minutes. There will be smiles and fist bumps, but little sentiment this Saturday evening.
Not with vital points on the line.
Brewster was on the substitutes’ bench the last time Liverpool lost in the Premier League at Anfield, 61 games and 42 months ago. He had just turned 17 and had been fast-tracked into Jurgen Klopp’s first-team squad, his talent having stood out a mile with the Reds’ youth teams.
And so he sat, unused, as the Reds went down 2-1 to Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace. Young, gifted and hungry, there would surely, be many more first-team opportunities coming his way.
Not quite, as it turned out. That game against Palace, in April 2017, turned out to be one of only two Premier League squads Brewster appeared in for Liverpool. He made it off the bench in neither. When he left for South Yorkshire earlier this month, he did so having managed just 192 minutes of competitive football for the club.
That Sheffield United were prepared to agree to a deal which could cost them £23.5million ($31m) speaks to the player’s ability and potential. As does the fact that the transfer only happened because Liverpool were able to secure a 15 per cent sell-on clause, as well as a three-season buy-back option which will, in theory, enable them to bring the 21-year-old back to Merseyside for a pre-agreed fee.
Liverpool expect him to flourish at Bramall Lane. Klopp smiled when Brewster’s name was mentioned during his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“We all know him very well,” he told reporters. “And that’s the problem – we know how good he is!”
Brewster’s last kick of a ball for Liverpool was a wayward one, his missed penalty allowing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to win the Community Shield for Arsenal at Wembley back in August, but it is his finishing ability that will have the Reds on alert this evening.
“We need to be 100 per cent focused if he starts,” Klopp added. “If Rhian is on the pitch, we know we should not let him finish at all because wherever he gets the ball he is a natural finisher. That’s his biggest threat.”
How Sheffield United need their record signing to fire, too. The Blades arrive at Anfield as strugglers, second from bottom in the Premier League, one of four sides still awaiting their first win of the season. Their only point so far came in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at home to Fulham, in which Brewster made his debut as a second-half substitute.
Manager Chris Wilder hinted at his own press conference that Brewster may be unleashed from the start against Liverpool.
“He’s really at the forefront of our thinking,” he said. “He’s settled in well, he’s an infectious character, and he’s pushing.”
He’s also a goalscorer, which is something his side have lacked since promotion to the Premier League in 2019. Wilder’s side did superbly well in finishing ninth last season, but they did so scoring just 39 goals in 38 matches, fewer than relegated Bournemouth. Their strength was their defensive solidity. Their leading scorers, Lys Mousset and Oli McBurnie, finished the campaign with just six goals apiece.
Brewster is about as confident a young as you can wish to meet, and hewill hope to race past that tally. He managed 11 in 22 appearances after joining Swansea on loan in January, helping the Welsh club reach the Championship play-offs.
“He’s a natural goalscorer,” said Klopp. James Milner says he is “ruthless in front of goal”, while Andre Ayew, his strike partnerat Swansea, has tipped him to be a “top, top, top player” at Premier League level. “He has everything you need for a striker,” said the Ghanaian.
Swansea, naturally, were desperate to take him back this season too, but swiftly discovered Brewster’s future lay, one way or another, in the Premier League.
Liverpool were not initially keen on a sale, preferring the idea of a season-long loan move. Aston Villa, Newcastle, Brighton and Crystal Palace held talks, but it was during discussions with Wilder, who spoke directly with Klopp at one point, that the idea of a permanent transfer took off.
Liverpool have sold as well as they’ve bought in recent years, especially when it comes to younger players. In selling the likes of Jordon Ibe, Sergi Canos, Kevin Stewart, Andre Wisdom, Brad Smith, Ryan Kent, Danny Ward, Rafa Camacho, Dominic Solanke and Ki-Jana Hoever, they have been able to consistently raise funds to be reinvested into Klopp’s first-team squad.
Whatever Brewster’s potential, to collect a fee in excess of £20m, for a player without a top-flight experience, and in the middle of a global pandemic, represents decent business. Especially given the club’s struggle to offload others, such as Harry Wilson and Marko Grujic.
Still, there will be a close eye on his development over at Bramall Lane. “He’s our boy,” Klopp said on Friday. “OK, we should say ‘he used to be our boy’, but we still feel that way.”
Klopp knows as well as anyone the danger his former charge poses.
“I wish him the nearly-perfect Premier League season,” he added. “So that’s 36 world-class games – and then two games off when we play them!”
Source : goal.com