Liverpool have always been a team that breeds young talent. So too Jurgen Klopp, whose managerial career is littered with the growth and development of teenage stars. Mario Gotze was one, Neven Subotic another, Mats Hummels another. There are a long line of players whose careers have been shaped from the chances the German has offered.
Bobby Duncan was expected to be another.
Youth success and a world of possibilities
Acquired from Manchester City in June 2018 after an in-house feud that saw him train separately from his teammates, his move to Liverpool represented a dream come true; the chance to make a name for himself at his boyhood club.
The teenager, who had spells with Mossley Hill, St Helens and Wigan was earmarked as a star of the future filled with untapped potential that was begging to be unleashed.
Establishing a formidable partnership with Paul Glatzel at Kirkby was the first indication of his capabilities, guiding his side to the FA Youth Cup back in April. His goal in the final which inspired the heroic turnaround would be his 32ndof the campaign, representative of his potency in front of goal.
Promotion to the Under-23s setup and pre-season inclusion with the club’s first team appeared to set a clear path out for Duncan’s development.
Catching Klopp’s eye with tenacious movement and the cutting edge all strikers need, a season with the Under-23s and possible opportunities in the domestic cups could well have been on the horizon, offering him further chances to impress while moulding into the player everyone knew he could be.
A sad end to a once promising story
And yet, it wasn’t meant to be.
In a game progressively fuelled by money and TV rights, it’s easy for young players to get caught in the moment. They want their fame and their fortunes now, they see themselves as deserving of better, as capable of more.
Klopp has always been a manager who calls for patience. The growth of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho and Andrew Robertson was borne out of a strategy of progression that laid focus on the long-term plan, rather than Day 1 opportunities.
Duncan’s departure signifies the other end of the spectrum, with representative Saif Rubie’s remarkable claims regarding sporting director Michael Edwards over the teenager’s progression and subsequent mental health meant there was only ever going to be one outcome.
The 18-year-old’s £1.9million move to Fiorentina draws a line under the recent saga, offering the player a chance to fulfil the potential he believed was being stalled. In Italy, he will hope to emulate the footsteps of Jadon Sancho, who has made incredible success out of his switch to the Bundesliga.
As for Liverpool, the club deserve immense credit for the way they handled what quickly became a high-profile media frenzy and have made a healthy profit from his services, pocketing a fee over ten times what they paid for Duncan last year.
A young lad steered down a narrow path by a modern age of greed and entitlement, his departure marks a sad end to what could’ve been a dream story.
Here’s hoping he lets his football do the talking in Italy.