Talking Reds columnist Simon Steers analyses the crop of Liverpool players ready to fulfil their vast potential at Anfield this season.
This current crop of Liverpool players is perhaps one of the most exciting groups of youngsters we have seen at the club in one period. Under Roy Evans in the 1990s we had a team full of youth and dynamism, and played an exciting brand of attacking football, but this current side has the potential to become as good as they want to be. There are a number of players at Liverpool that can go on to an elite level if they realise potential.
Players reach elite status at different points in time; some will excel from a very young age and you can make a very early judgement about the level they will reach; others might develop at a later point and start to hit new heights once they reach peak, which is often between 26-30 years old. Lionel Messi was world-class at 21, but a player like Xabi Alonso has grown into a world-class performer as his career has progressed.
All of the top clubs want top performers, and once a player reaches that level they will have multiple options about how to progress a career. Unless you have infinite finances it is very difficult to build a winning team by looking exclusively to proven world-class talent - the competition for signatures is intense, and there are so many factors that are outside your sphere of control.
But that doesn't mean you can't build a winning team. The trick is finding the players that will go on to be great at a young age - and will grow together to become brilliant individually and collectively.
The German side that won the World Cup is full of top players - they have grown together so that the level of individual performance is so high, there is no room for one player that stands out from the crowd.
Reaching the top isn't a given no matter how talented the player. The development journey of each individual is critical to how good they can become. Sometimes a manager or coach's role in a player's development is understated - if your goal is to develop young players then you need a coach that can guide players to that elite level. Good managers can win trophies with infinite budgets, but developing and coaching a side to success is where the very best managers will thrive.
In Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool have a manager that is an outstanding coach, and his development of young players is the single biggest contributory factor to why the club's methodology of recruiting players in the development phase has every chance of reaping long-term, sustained success.
One of Rodgers' biggest strengths is that he doesn't stifle the growth of young players. Football today can be very tactical and you can see how some young players have natural instincts and flair coached out of them - the opposite happens under Rodgers.
Rodgers seems to give his young players a freedom to express themselves, he creates a culture of no fear where players aren't afraid to try something different, or make mistakes.
There are a lot of clubs that share Liverpool's ambition to grow and develop young players; it's a philosophy and model that has become a holy grail in football. But for it to work, you need more than just the talent, you need the coaching structure and culture that will push players towards potential. Not every club has that - Liverpool do.
Our future is now
There is a fine line between potential and greatness, the transition can happen very quickly, and sometimes even slip under the radar for a period of time.
Liverpool have an exciting crop of young players, some of whom might affirm world-class credentials in the coming years. Some are slightly ahead in the development journey, but there is a very real prospect that Liverpool have players that can make that transition this season.
Daniel Sturridge is a player that is now reaching a point in his career where he can make the transition to being one of Europe's elite. Last season Rodgers observed: "Daniel has a wonderful opportunity over the next few years to become world-class." Sturridge continues to grow in all aspects of his game, and can thrive on the responsibility of being the leading striker at the club.
Raheem Sterling is a player that has absolutely everything. He is probably the most exciting teenager in Europe, and he is only going to get better. I strongly suspect that like Messi, Sterling is developing into a top performer at an early age - and I expect this season he will be an integral part of any success we achieve.
Philippe Coutinho is another player who has all of the tools to reach the top of the game. He continues to grow in stature and maturity, and he is beginning to relish the No.10 role, taking on the responsibility of being the playmaker.
Emre Can and Lazar Markovic have been recruited and both have the attributes to go on and become great players. Both have had excellent grounding in competitive leagues, and in Rodgers they have a coach that will push them on and they will be given the opportunity to show how good they are.
The list isn't exclusive. We have a great deal of individual talent coming through, but it will always be the team that's the key for Rodgers.
It's all about the team
One of the important points for Rodgers is that brilliant individuals fit into a team structure. It doesn't matter how good you are, the team will always be greater than the sum of its parts. The team shouldn't be reliant on any one player to function.
Our squad has a depth and quality of player that can all make a contribution to the functioning of the team, and the likes of Sterling, Coutinho, Markovic and Sturridge have that quality to interchange and add a flair and unpredictability to our game.
The transfer window can sometimes be a distraction to what is right under your nose. There is a natural fixation on the biggest deals, and the movement of the top players, but the fact is that there are many clubs that have a player waiting to prove himself as world-class - one that you don't always see coming. At Liverpool, we have several.
The other contributory factor to the growth of Liverpool's players this season will be the return to the Champions League. Competing against the best players and teams in Europe is a key part of any player's journey to becoming one of the best.
We are building for the future but we are also ready for the now. This season we may see some of our players make the transition to world-class - I can't wait to watch this Liverpool team grow into something special as it realises its potential.