Jürgen Klopp has no doubt that Pepijn Lijnders can become a successful manager – but feels the Liverpool coach is wise to bide his time before taking the plunge.
The recently-completed season was the studious Dutchman’s third with the Reds, having initially joined the Academy back in 2014 after seven years at FC Porto.
Such was the impression made by Lijnders during his opening 12 months in Kirkby, where he tutored the U16s squad, he was subsequently given the new role of first team development coach and moved to Melwood.
He maintained that position when Klopp arrived on Merseyside and, indeed, took on new responsibilities as part of the coaching staff alongside his position as the link between the two training bases.
Lijnders’ career trajectory will undoubtedly involve a managerial role of his own one day, according to the Liverpool boss, though there is no rush from either party to change the status quo.
Asked if the coach can succeed as a manager in the future, Klopp told Liverpoolfc.com: “Yes, 100 per cent. No doubt, no doubt.
“But what I really like is that he’s smart enough to think ‘OK, it’s not the time for it’, even when there are younger managers around the world.
“It’s a long way to go and he can still get a lot of information from us and I like how he takes it.
“I think in different parts he has good teachers with us, and we like doing it actually. He’s much younger than we are so at one moment we will stop and he’ll be ready to stand with his own feet, and I’m really looking forward to it already, watching the games when he’s on the sideline and can give all his power – and there’s a lot of power – to his team.”
The 2016-17 campaign provided more evidence of how the process of graduation from the Academy to Melwood is working smoothly.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria, Ben Woodburn and Harry Wilson each made their senior debuts during the season and dealt with the demands impressively.
Lijnders – labelled the ‘perfect mentor’ by Klopp – takes part of the credit for presenting opportunities to the club’s young players. “He does not stop talking about them!” said the manager.
But his influence at Liverpool goes beyond that particular element of his role, and the passion he brings to the pursuit of victory has enhanced the backroom team which reached the heights at Borussia Dortmund.
“His main job is being a real coach,” noted Klopp.
“I’m really happy. I never could’ve imagined that I needed another assistant, but now we have him and I cannot imagine how it would be without him.
“He is doing a fantastic job and he brings all the things in that we are not that good in, if you want.
“We are kind of old-school managers or coaches, because we’ve been [around] a long time and all these young boys are coming up and bringing new things and interests in. We use, on the other side, our experience – what is good, [we’re] calmer in decision-making, all that stuff.
“I love his mood, I love his attitude, I love already how smart he is, but still really open to learning.
“So for us, it’s perfect, especially then with his fluent English, he’s a big help for Zeljko [Buvac] especially in the sessions. They have a fantastic relationship, actually.
“I’m really happy that the club decided before I came in that he has to stay. I had no idea who he is, where he’s coming from, but it’s an interesting life already that he had, with being that long at Porto and all that stuff. Fantastic guy and an even better manager in the future.”