Jurgen Klopp's brilliant parting gift to Liverpool is two young stars

Last summer, imagine being told that Conor Bradley and Jarell Quansah would be starting for Liverpool in a potentially season-defining Premier League clash against Manchester City.

It would have sounded ridiculous.

Both youngsters were almost unknowns outside of Merseyside, and even some Liverpool fans may have been forgiven for not being experts on the pair.

The strides that Bradley and Quansah have made this season have been extraordinary, however, with Jurgen Klopp's admirable faith in youth paying off handsomely.

Granted, injuries have forced the manager's hand, with few other options but to play them at times, but many other managers would have found ways to do all they could to avoid throwing them in at the deep end.

Bradley's rise has arguably been the more meteoric of the two, considering he didn't make a single appearance for Liverpool this season until November.

Losing Trent Alexander-Arnold had the potential to be hugely damaging to the Reds' chances of great success, but the highest compliment you can pay Bradley is that his world-class teammate hasn't even been missed a massive amount.

In a short space of time, the Northern Irishman has gone from a young player whose future could easily lie away from Anfield, to a brilliant squad option who could even be the future first-choice right-back, should Alexander-Arnold become a midfielder.

Bradley's memorable performance against Chelsea earlier in the year was one of the individual performances of the season, with a goal and two assists coming his way, and with each passing game, the more outstanding he looks.

Then there's Quansah, who was arguably even more of an unknown than Bradley this time last year, with few, if anyone, predicting him to play any sort of role for Liverpool 2023/24.

Echoes of Van Dijk

The Englishman has been immaculate every time he has taken to the field, though, with echoes of Virgil van Dijk about him in style, from his cultured class on the ball to his unruffled defensive work in pressurised situations.

Jarell Quansah Liverpool

Jarell Quansah Liverpool

With Joel Matip looking likely to leave Liverpool at the end of the season, there is no longer a huge need to spend big on a replacement - it would still be nice, mind! - with Quansah echoing Bradley in being an excellent squad player for whoever Klopp's replacement is.

Biggest test yet

On Sunday, Bradley and Quansah faced comfortably their greatest test yet, being thrown into the starting lineup to face City, in a game so pivotal that nerves were shredded for days leading up to kickoff.

It was easy to feel concerned when the starting lineups were released, considering Liverpool had youngsters involved and numerous key players out, while Pep Guardiola's side were at full-strength.

Would Bradley and Quansah wilt under the pressure up against world-class players? Was this going to be one game too far for them?

As has been the case throughout this season, Liverpool proved the doubters wrong with a majestic performance, outplaying their opponents and deserving to walk away with all three points.

In the end, a 1-1 draw should be looked at as absolutely fine, keeping the Reds one point ahead of the reigning Premier League champions, but the display merited a win.

As for Bradley and Quansah, they couldn't have stood up to the task any more impressively, looking like they belonged in such illustrious company and never allowing the magnitude of the occasion to get to them.

Liverpool v Manchester City - Premier League - Anfield Liverpool s Conor Bradley shoots under pressure from Manchester City s Nathan Ake during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Sunday March 10, 2024. Copyright: xPeterxByrnex 75585810

Sure, there was one lapse in communication that earned them a rollocking from Van Dijk, but overall, the duo excelled alongside one another down the right-hand side of Liverpool's defence.

Bradley was a vibrant presence down the right flank all afternoon, prior to his second-half substitution, looking like a young, right-footed Gareth Bale, in terms of his powerful, direct running. One impressive run and cross so nearly saw Darwin Nunez score in front of the Kop.

He had the beating of Julian Alvarez in a physical sense, running off him a number of times, and also defended impressively up against the clever Argentine.

Quansah was arguably even better than his teammate, producing an imposing performance up against the viking-like Erling Haaland, and never looking daunted for a second.

The 21-year-old had 98 touches at Anfeld and completed 87% of his passes, but there was nothing safe about his decision-making on the ball, and one driving run and shot outlined the confidence he is playing with.

With some young players, they can enjoy a great start to life at a club and then fade away, eventually being found out, but Quansah looks and feels like the real deal, possessing all the attributes to enjoy a fantastic career at the top.

Exactly the same applies to Bradley, who is like a hybrid of Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, which is about the biggest compliment you can pay any modern full-back.

Conor Bradley

Liverpool v Chelsea - Premier League - Anfield Liverpool s Conor Bradley celebrates after assisting their side s third goal of the game scored by Dominik Szoboszlai during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Wednesday January 31, 2024. Copyright: xPeterxByrnex 75208800

The future's bright

As Klopp prepares to leave Liverpool this summer - the brilliance of Sunday's display was another reminder of how painful seeing him depart is going to be - he has handed his replacement two wonderful talents to take into the future.

The backing he has shown them has not only been admirable, but it has been huge in their development, possibly benefiting them for the rest of their careers.

Klopp could easily have not taken a punt on Bradley and Quansah so regularly - others would have thrown in the more experienced Joe Gomez and Kostas Tsimikas against City, for example - but he isn't a normal manager and this is what makes him so special.

Liverpool legendary German has unearthed two absolute gems, turning them from exciting prospects into players who can excel against arguably the greatest team in the world.

They deserve enormous praise for the manner in which they have risen to the challenge, and they have their iconic leader to thank for trusting them, making them two of the stories of the season at Anfield.

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