InterviewStefan Bajcetic: It's amazing how quickly things have happened
Stefan Bajcetic admits even he has been taken aback by his rapid rise through the ranks at Liverpool.
The 18-year-old hit another significant milestone in this breakthrough season of his by signing a new long-term contract with the club at the AXA Training Centre on Thursday afternoon.
Bajcetic, who joined the Reds' Academy set-up from Celta Vigo in December 2020, has made 10 first-team appearances so far this campaign – even getting on the scoresheet with a lovely finish at Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
Shortly after putting pen to paper on his deal, the midfielder sat down with Liverpoolfc.com to share his delight at committing his future and attempt to make sense of how 2022-23 has panned out for him.
Watch the interview in full in the video below, or read on for the transcript.
Interview: Stefan Bajcetic reacts to new Liverpool contract
- Want to watch this video? Subscribe to LFCTV GO now and get a month FREE using the code GOFREE23
Stefan, congratulations. The smile that's on your face tells the whole story of the emotion that will be within you. How happy are you to sign this new contract?
Obviously I’m so, so happy, so excited to keep playing for this club and hopefully I can play more years together. Me and my family are very proud to sign a new contract with this club.
It's been a great couple of months for you personally, hasn't it? The goal at Aston Villa, the full Premier League debut at Anfield and now this new contract. Can you believe it's all happened as quickly as it has?
It's crazy. A year ago I was playing U18s football and now I've started some games, made my debut and even scored a goal – that was something I never expected to happen this year. It's amazing to see how fast it went. But I keep working hard and hopefully [there are] more things to come.
A lot of Liverpool fans watching this interview will remember your U18s team and how well you were gelled together as a group. You almost bypassed the U21s to go into the first-team set-up. When did you become aware that the manager wanted you to become part of this first-team set-up full-time?
Last season when we were playing U18s, some games in the U21s, we knew some of the staff were watching the games, and I had some training that season with the first team. Obviously then I went to pre-season – me and my teammates – and that was the time we worked harder and we were close to the first team. I think that was the moment they chose me to stay.
Did you have a feeling that you had done well in the games, in training that you'd left that positive impression on the manager and coaching staff?
Yeah, I was happy with how I did. The games we played, I was very happy, I played some good games. Obviously there's moments when you're not that good but that's always like that. I was very happy with the pre-season.
What was it like settling into the dressing room? There are some dominant personalities in there. Have they helped you feel part of it all?
Yeah, they were all very good with me, always encouraging me. I settled very well in the changing room, I think. All the young ones as well try to talk to me and the Spanish-talking people always try to help me. That was very important for me and gave me massive confidence.
And there's been some practical jokes as well! That always indicates that they feel you're part of their team now...
There's been some jokes! I'm the youngest, so that always happens.
Tell us about the position you play in. It would arguably be one of the most difficult positions to play and impress in. You obviously started as a centre-back, but how comfortable are you in receiving the ball in difficult situations and imparting your personality on the team?
Obviously it's a difficult transition from centre-back to midfield. I used to play a little bit as a midfielder back in the day but I always played centre-back. But then Bridgey [Marc Bridge-Wilkinson], the U18s coach, put me there in midfield and in the first games it was difficult. But with time I got used to it and I'm very comfortable there.
There's been some big games as well – Chelsea, Manchester City in a big cup game. Do you feel the pressure or is that just something you enjoy?
I feel it and I enjoy it. You obviously feel the pressure but it's part of football nowadays. When you play at home, you feel the pressure in a good way. I have to get used to this – that's football.
You've spoken before about how much Thiago Alcantara has helped you in that process. There's this wonderful story between the two families as well. Have your dads been back in touch and spoke about their two boys playing together at Liverpool?
To be fair, it's a crazy story because I also played in a very, very little academy back in Vigo, the city where I was born – we played in the same little academy. When I told him I played in this academy, he was like, 'Wow!' It's unbelievable, this story. I think my dad hasn't talked with his dad but it's crazy to think about how small that town was and look at where we are now.
Does your dad talk about his dad and what kind of player he was?
I don't know, to be honest. We never spoke about that. I know his dad was very good but I've never seen him play – I wasn't born. So I don't know how he played.
Is Thiago helping you in terms of bringing your personality into the team, having that confidence that you spoke about before in feeling part of this team?
Yeah, not only Thiago but Millie as well helps me a lot. He's like a coach inside the changing room and he always gives me some tips and tries to help me all the time. That's very helpful for me. And obviously Thiago as well.
Just to return to the subject of your dad, he's said that as an 18-year-old you have a 30-year-old's head on your shoulders, you're very mature for your age and that's why he doesn't worry about you in this league. Is that how you'd describe yourself as well?
I don't know! I'm just being myself and I don't know if I have a head of 30 years old or not. I'm just me and try to work hard and keep playing.
You will keep playing and you will continue to be part of this first-team set-up. Do you set targets, or are you someone that just concentrates on the next game? Or do you know where you would like to be in the next months, couple of years?
My target is to be a regular here at Liverpool and keep winning trophies with this club and achieving things collectively basically.
Finally, to sign this contract, it's what you dreamed of when you walked through the door – that you would be inside that first team. How does that feel to have that almost as a reality now?
It feels amazing. It's something I've been dreaming of in these two years I've been here and something that I've been working hard [for] as well. Thankfully I got it.