premier-league

Stefan Bajcetic admits he is surprised by his rapid rise at Liverpool

Liverpool teenager Stefan Bajcetic admits his rapid rise to Jurgen Klopp’s first team has surprised even him.

The 18-year-old made his first Premier League start in last weekend’s goalless draw at home to Chelsea in just his 10th appearance.

He made his debut as a 70th-minute substitute in August’s 9-0 win over Bournemouth and his first Champions League outing a fortnight later, before returning to the Under-23s for a pair of EFL Trophy games while still remained in and around Klopp’s squad.

He scored at Aston Villa on Boxing Day and after impressing in last week’s FA Cup third-round replay at Wolves, he was retained in the squad for Chelsea, with Klopp keen to inject more energy into a midfield which has looked lackluster all season.

“I’m a bit surprised to be fair. Last season I played under-18,” said Bajcetic.

“But I’ve tried to improve and try to impress here and if I get an opportunity I try to take it.

“It (starting against Chelsea) gives me huge confidence. I have been training hard and trying to improve throughout the season.

“I just try to get the opportunities and when I get them, play well.”

Despite his age, Bajcetic clearly retains Klopp’s faith and looks set to start again this weekend at Brighton in the FA Cup as Liverpool return to the scene of what the manager called the worst performance of his managerial career earlier this month.

Liverpool’s Stefan Bajcetic, watched by manager Jurgen Klopp, warms up before the Emirates FA Cup third round play-off match at Molineux Picture date: Tuesday, January 17, 2023.

Klopp has praised the “massive steps” the teenager has taken and admitted it would have been unfair to leave him out for bigger names like Fabinho and Jordan Henderson after his displays at Wolves.

“He always tells me to do what I do in training, (but) in training you’re more confident because you’re not in front of 60,000 people,” Bajcetic added.

“It sounds small, but it makes a difference to tell me.”

The youngster has also learned the ropes from the very experienced Thiago Alcantara, and presents a nice symmetry as the pair’s fathers once played together at Celta Vigo – the club from which Spaniard Bajcetic joined Liverpool in December 2020, initially as a centre-back.

“He makes everything a little easier,” Bajcetic said. “He talks to me a lot, also in Spanish. He gives me confidence and always tries to help me. I am very grateful to him for that.”

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