Liverpool have a teenage midfielder who’s been nicknamed “Philipp Lahm” by Jurgen Klopp and his coaching staff due to his remarkable versatility.
Leighton Clarkson made his first Champions League start for the Reds last Wednesday in the 1-1 draw with Midtjylland. Even before the game, Klopp was talking up the player – who turned 19 in October – as among the club’s “biggest talents”.
“In Germany, there’s a famous player who played similar to him,” said Klopp, per The Athletic. “You might have to go back a little longer and I don’t want to put pressure on the boy but he reminds me a lot of him.
“He’s just a good footballer, a smart footballer. He’s fast, physically strong. If you see him, his legs are not like a 19-year-old boy’s legs – they are already grown and so I am really happy to give him his opportunity because he deserves it.”
That set up a mystery as to which famous German player Klopp was referring to but, according to Caoimhe O’Neill of The Athletic, the tongue-in-cheek nickname for Clarkson at the club is “Philipp Lahm”. So case closed on that puzzle.
Clarkson played in a defensive midfield role against Midtjylland and lasted the full 90 minutes. His range of passing, quick decision-making and ability to play in different positions are said to be his main assets.
Lahm, the Bayern Munich and Germany legend who retired in 2017, was most commonly a full-back. However he regularly and successfully played in midfield during Pep Guardiola’s spell in charge of the German giants.
At one point, the World Cup winner was arguably the best right-back, the best left-back and the best defensive midfielder that his club and country had. Three Lahms would probably have got into the Bayern and Germany teams, had they been able to clone him.
A lot of expectation to put on the shoulders of the Blackburn-born Clarkson, then. So it’s worth emphasising that the Lahm nickname is only an affectionate bit of encouragement, rather than a firm statement that he will go on to become one of the greats of the game.
Liverpool have a strong crop of young players coming through, led by 19-year-old Curtis Jones, and they are getting plenty of opportunity for game time this season due to the Reds’ injury problems.
If Clarkson is as talented and versatile as Klopp and his staff believe, he won’t be short of chances to impress throughout the rest of the season.