By Sam May
Liverpool midfield maestro Stefan Bajcetic has got Reds fans talking, after his impressive pre-season display against RB Leipzig.
The 17-year-old is a very bright prospect and the latest youngster to be given the chance to shine under manager Jurgen Klopp.
Bajcetic has been training with the likes of Mohamed Salah, skipper Jordan Henderson and Darwin Nunez in pre-season, and took his chance to impress for the Merseysiders against the German outfit.
Arriving in late 2020 from Celta Vigo for £250,000 as a 16-year-old, Liverpool had to act fast as the United Kingdom prepared to leave the European Union on New Year’s Day 2021.
Under the post-Brexit transfer rules, clubs can no longer sign overseas players under the age of 18, and given Manchester United were also keen on him in 2019, Liverpool’s recruitment staff had to act swiftly to secure his signature.
Bajcetic was born in Spain but has Serbian heritage, with his father, Srdan, a professional footballer who played for Celta, Red Star Belgrade and the Serbia national team.
The youngster has, so far, represented the country of his birth at national level, picking up three caps for the Spain under-18 side.
At Liverpool, he made his under-18s debut as an under-16 player in 2020-21 and has risen through the under-21 set-up and has therefore been given his opportunity in the first-team.
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Last season’s displays earned him a ‘standout’ tag by the Reds coaching staff. In November 2021, Bajcetic penned his first professional contract with Liverpool.
Klopp’s assistant coach Pepijn Lijnders back in January said of him:
“I really believe in our project looking at our academy. For example, I spent yesterday morning at the Academy to speak with the coaches and Alex Inglethorpe.
“We look all the time at the Academy. Our U18s played against Burnley in the FA Youth Cup (earlier that week) and we had Bobby Clark, Luke Chambers, Stefan Bajcetic, they all stand out.
“I hope they come with us during the pre-season because it is important for them to have a proper pre-season to know exactly how we want to do things.”
At the time, he also drew praise from U23 boss Marc-Bridge Wilkinson.
“He is doing really well,” said Bridge-Wilkinson, per The Athletic. “He is playing a little bit different in midfield at the minute but he is good enough to play there.
“He is good enough to play the game in and out of possession in that position as well as at centre-back. We are really pleased for him today.”
Bajcetic most recently impressed in the pre-season games against Crystal Palace and RB Leipzig.
Liverpool ran riot against their German opponents in Austria on Thursday, with Mo Salah opening the scoring before Darwin Nunez netted a four-goal haul in the match his first goals and first hat-trick for his new club.
But Bajcetic caught the eye due to his tenacious tackling when being introduced in the second half.
The teenager, whose versatility enables him to play at both centre-back and in midfield, was involved in Liverpool’s fourth goal at the Red Bull Arena.
He managed to steal the ball from RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara, before picking out teammate Harvey Elliott who then slid the ball through to Nunez for his hat-trick.
Bajcetic has drawn comparisons to Manchester City midfielder Rodri. Like his fellow countryman, he is composed on the ball, excellent in the air and has the ability to read the game expertly.
Once pre-season is over, he will most likely return to Bridge-Wilkinson’s under-23s, but keep impressing, and he will no doubt be fast-tracked.
And Liverpool fans could see the highly-rated teenager on a more regular basis.
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