Rhian Brewster leaves Liverpool in a £23.5million transfer for Sheffield United after the decision was made to let him depart for the good of his career.
But a buyback clause for the next three seasons shows that club chiefs aren’t completely giving up on the 20-year-old striker.
Brewster becomes the eighth most expensive sale in the club’s history, despite never kicking a Premier League ball for the Reds.
Brewster returned to Anfield this summer after a successful loan spell at Swansea City last term.
He scored 11 goals in 22 games for the Championship side, impressing as they reached the playoffs and returned to Merseyside hoping to use pre-season to force his way into Jurgen Klopp’s first-team plans.
Instead, he heads to Bramall Lane in a bid to progress at senior level. However, Klopp and sporting director Michael Edwards will be continuing to keep tabs on his progress.
Klopp has long been a big fan of Brewster, believing the young hitman has what it takes to score goals and shine in the Premier League.
He has previously spoken of creating a pathway for Brewster at first-team level, having warded off Bundesliga advances in 2017, with the youngster giving serious thought to following Jadon Sancho abroad at a time when his contract was almost up.
However, when that happened – at a time when Brewster had fired England Under-17s to World Cup glory, winning the golden boot – there were two key factors that looked very different.
One is that Liverpool were not the relentless juggernaut that they have since become. They had just finished fourth in the Premier League, rather than romping to the title, and had not been to back-to-back Champions League finals.
Secondly, Brewster’s development has been severely hampered by injury; at 18 he missed almost an entire year, undergoing both ankle and knee surgery.
At the age of 20, he has just 26 senior club games under his belt, and only four of those for the Reds. In contrast, Curtis Jones, a year younger, has 17 Liverpool games to his name, while Harvey Elliott, only 17, has 12.
Thus, through no fault of his own, Brewster’s development has fallen a little behind where he was expected to be right now – while Liverpool have reached great new heights – perhaps higher than they imagined three years ago.
And right now, that pathway that Klopp had previously plotted, which was all important in getting Brewster to snub a move to Germany – most notably to Borussia Monchengladbach – simply is no longer there.
Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are the undoubted first-choice trio, all currently enjoying their peak years.
Diogo Jota’s £45million arrival from Wolves sees him now pitched firmly in the role as first reserve for all three; the Portugal international, already hailed as the club’s new “pressing monster”, is versatile but will operate mostly from the left, with Mane able to switch to the right and Salah playing as a No.9 if necessary/depending on who drops out.
Takumi Minamino is also in the fray as a like-for-like Firmino replacement, while Divock Origi remains despite having looked set to depart earlier in the transfer window.
Xherdan Shaqiri may depart with two clubs having moved for him – the Swiss having been pulled from Thursday’s League Cup tie with Arsenal – while Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can both fill across the front line.
There is also Elliott, the teenager who is developing fast and will need minutes as the season progresses; he has been training with Salah – and is seen as the Egyptian’s long-term heir – and has even been used the day before matches as a left-back against Liverpool’s top scorer, in a bid to aid his own progress. He is in the position now that Brewster was in back in 2017.
Liverpool have been in no rush to part with Brewster.
But they understand that he needs regular game time and, quite simply, he isn’t going to be getting that on Merseyside.
"Rhian couldn't make it here, so far," Klopp said on Friday. "That's pretty much the information. But he has made big steps in his development.
"Rhian was seriously injured, so first and foremost we had to make sure he was ready for all the demands of professional football again and he is now 100 percent.
"He had a really good half season at Swansea and was really impressive, he came here for pre-season and scored for us – you could see that he made big steps.
"It's about development – if Rhian was now 25 or 26 we would say stay and work for your chance – it's a different situation when you are younger.
"A player like Rhian in this position, it's important he makes the next steps and uses the time he lost."
Therefore, they have been open to both temporary and permanent solutions, but also haven’t been wanting to completely cut ties with a player who arrived as a 15-year-old from Chelsea.
Sheffield United’s deal – £23million, 15 percent sell on fee, buy back clause until the summer of 2023 – ticks all the boxes.
The makeup of the transfer isn’t dissimilar to that which saw Dominic Solanke head to Bournemouth, with Liverpool keeping first refusal on him after his £19million switch.
But unlike Solanke, who boasts senior England caps, it's hoped that Brewster will fulfil his potential.
If he does, it will ultimately give Liverpool another decision to make further down the line, when perhaps their frontline won't be as stacked as at present.
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