Analysis: With North East clubs after his services, what is Sheyi Ojo's best next step?

Sheyi Ojo will decide the next step in his career in the coming weeks. It will be one of the most important choices he'll make.

Analysis: With North East clubs after his services, what is Sheyi Ojo's best next step?
Ojo in action during pre-season 2017 (photo: Getty Images / Alex Livesey)

Young Liverpool winger Sheyi Ojo has been linked with many clubs in previous weeks, but it appears that his choice has come down to two.

Middlesbrough and Newcastle United are both interested in the 20-year-old, who played a part in England U20's World Cup winning campaign earlier this summer.

With Ojo having been left out of Liverpool's squad for their Hong Kong trip as he contemplates his future, there is a big decision for the speedster to make as he reaches something of a crossroads in his career.

Since breaking through the Liverpool youth ranks and impressing during a handful of appearances at the back end of the 2015-16 season, Ojo has been plagued by injuries and has struggled for appearances on the Liverpool team-sheet, even in the absence of Sadio Mane due to injury and international duty. 

Now, he must choose wisely as he looks to ensure his development doesn't stagnate any further. 

Boro' after a loan deal

New Middlesbrough boss Gary Monk has reportedly made Ojo one of his top targets, as the Teeside club seek an immediate return to the top-flight following their relegation.

Having signed Britt Assombalonga for a club-record fee on Monday, it's clear that Boro' mean business, boosting Ojo's ego to an extent.

Spending a season in the Championship could be good for Ojo as he may well be afforded some serious playing time, with Stewart Downing and Adama Traore both expected to depart the North East club before the season starts. 

Monk will likely play a more pragmatic, attacking style of football than that of his predecessor Aitor Karanka, something that could give Middlesbrough the edge over rivals Newcastle as Jürgen Klopp advises Ojo on which side would best suit his progression into the Liverpool first-team squad. 

However, the cost of such a move would be missing out on another season of Premier League football, with the only opportunity for Ojo to test himself against the 'best' teams coming in cup fixtures. 

Could Newcastle take him permanently?

Toon boss Rafa Benitez has been in contact with his old club over a move for Ojo, not necessarily a loan one either.

Newcastle are interested in loaning Ojo, but have also tabled a £10M bid as a back-up buy if their attempts to land Jacob Murphy fail.

Any sort of permanent deal would almost certainly see a buy-back clause similar to that which Liverpool inserted when they sold Jordon Ibe to Bournemouth last year. Whether or not they'd exercise the buy-back option would be up to the development of Ojo.

Moving to St James' Park would allow the winger to continue his development in the Premier League, allowing Klopp to see him up close at the top level.

However, game-time could become more sporadic. Under a fairly defensive minded coach such as Benitez, Ojo's attacking exploits may be less favoured during any potential relegation battle.

Still, going permanently would allow him to have something of a fresh start after an injury-hit period on Merseyside, with the option of returning to the club he wishes to play for. 

What about staying at Liverpool?

Despite not jetting out to Hong Kong and Klopp keen to see Ojo go elsewhere in an attempt to pick up playing time, there is always the option that the player digs his heels in and decides that neither move is right for him.

That would afford him the opportunity to stay on L4 for the season, hopefully impressing Klopp with training performances and during appearances for the U23 side.

There are obvious drawbacks to doing so though. The signing of Mohamed Salah has added to Liverpool's wide options, seeing Ojo fall further down the pecking order.

Ben Woodburn, the club's youngster ever goalscorer, moved above him in Klopp's thinking last season, whilst Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana may also be used in wide position's this season. That isn't to mention Sadio Mane either, whilst there are links to Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

A big decision

Having been at Liverpool since the age of 14, Ojo's popularity has ebbed and flowed. Currently down after a season where he featured little, it makes more sense to impress from outside the club as first-team opportunities could be few and far between.

First-team football must be his priority right now and aiding Middlesbrough's promotion charge, albeit in the Championship, could be good experience in terms of playing for a team that is expected to win most games. 

Ojo has a big year ahead and must make the right move, or risk watching the potential he undoubtedly has fade away. 


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