Despite announcing himself as a Red during the 2012/13 campaign as no more than a pimply pre-teen, bagging an assist that set up none other than Philippe Coutinho, it was when put on the M6 and shipped out to Derby County in the summer of 2014 that Jordon Ibe began to write the headlines.
The 19-year-old’s knack for demonstrating his worth as a wide man was justified with his hand in a last gasp goal that ensured his previous loan outfit, Birmingham City, were to retain their second tier status at the peril of Doncaster Rovers on the decisive day of the 2013/14 season.
Ibe’s ‘trick’ of beating many a man and cutting inside, something he was known for during his short stint in the Midlands, warranted him a period with a promotion pushing side the next term. But after impressing the spell was cut short.
This came as no surprise to onlookers as Liverpool’s number 33’s dribbles leave opponents in a daze and his audacious acceleration was destined to grace the top flight.
Taken from the ranks of Wycombe’s youth set-up, the promising prospect arrived at Anfield for little more than petty cash to the Premier League side, £750,000.
A bargain in hindsight. The rest is history, for though his ascension to the senior side was upstaged by that of Harry Kane’s and further eclipsed by injury, the player-in-question certainly took the shine off of Raheem Sterling at the back end of last term.
Whilst he may have offered his allegiance to Brendan Rodgers for five more years to come, this won’t stop their rivals from keeping a close eye on the youngster. In fact, he’s already got himself a set of admirers, with the Nigerian Football Federation having identified his potential, hopeful of tempting him with a switch to their national side as a result of Ibe’s roots. Although his hat-trick at the 2014 European Under-19 Championship suggests Roy might have a thing or two to say about that.
On the other hand, despite his tender years, the attacker’s level of maturity is a quality to be admired, refusing to feign a fall for the sake of a set piece but instead staying on his feet, calmness personified in heated situations.
Already showboating glimpses of the player that guided the ball to the edge of the box – as he had done on many an occasion in the white of Derby, netting five times on 20 occasions – with a bit of neat footwork before unleashing a powerful shot that agonisingly cannoned off of the upright, Ibe wrote himself onto the scoresheet in a pre-season friendly in which Liverpool came up against Malaysia. Except this one nestled into the top corner. His signature dribble can be carried out on either foot, although the ace is known to favour his right foot.
Somewhat of an unpolished gem, a full term in the Premier League will allow Ibe to acquire that consistency that will leave the Reds with an almost unplayable, too-hot-to-handle end product on their hands as opposed to a one-season wonder. Having already drawn comparisons to John Barnes, the weight of expectation resting upon Ibe’s shoulders for the forthcoming campaign is a great one.