Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he is determined to protect Ben Woodburn after the teenager surpassed Michael Owen as the club’s youngest goalscorer.
Substitute Woodburn – at the age of 17 years and 45 days – scored Liverpool’s second goal in their 2-0 victory over Leeds in the EFL Cup quarter-finals.
Klopp said he was “really happy” for the academy graduate, adding: “The only problem is I’m afraid about all you in the media. That’s why I’m so quiet.
“We know how to handle the situation.”
Woodburn made his senior debut for the Reds in Saturday’s Premier League win over Sunderland.
Three days later, he broke Owen’s record by 98 days, with the former England striker watching from the main stand.
“He still has a lot of things to do and especially to keep the public away for as long as possible – but that is a difficult thing to do,” said Klopp.
“I said well done to him afterwards. It was not too difficult. I would have scored too in that situation. We know what Ben is capable of and what he is already able to do.”
Victory took Liverpool into the League Cup semi-finals for the third straight season, and they will discover their semi-final opponents when the draw is made on Wednesday night.
Klopp also praised 18-year-old right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who crossed for Divock Origi’s goal, and 19-year-old midfielder Ovie Ejaria.
“All the young boys did very well in an important game,” he added.
‘Level-headed’ Woodburn has big goals
Woodburn, then 16, scored in an impressive display during a pre-season win over Wigan.
Asked if a player who had just taken his GCSEs could figure in the first team this season, Klopp replied: “Of course not. Ben is 16. Of course not.”
Woodburn joined the club at under-7s, and his coaches have praised the level-headed nature of a player who represented the club’s under-18 side aged 15.
His first professional contract – a three-year deal – was signed in November, around the same time the Anfield club introduced a salary cap of £40,000 a year for 17-year-old first-year professionals.
And his fine work at the Reds’ Kirkby academy has translated into appearances for Wales at under-17 and under-19 level, though he is still eligible to play for England.
The Three Lions may have their work cut out to select him, though, as Woodburn has said he wants to “replicate” the feats of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.
Woodburn – a peak or just the beginning?
Owen scored 179 goals for Liverpool in 306 appearances. He went on to play for Real Madrid and Manchester United, and scored 40 times for England.
Among those congratulating Woodburn at the final whistle was team-mate James Milner, who scored for Leeds against Sunderland in the Premier League aged 16 years and 352 days.
Milner, who has won 61 caps for England, remains the second-youngest goalscorer in Premier League history and became one of the league’s most expensive players when he joined Manchester City from Aston Villa for £28.5m in 2010.
England captain Wayne Rooney also burst onto the stage at an early age, scoring a memorable goal for Everton against Arsenal when he was 16 years and 355 days old.
He is now his country’s all-time leading goalscorer, Manchester United’s all-time top goalscorer in Europe and needs one goal to equal Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals for the club.
But scoring at a young age is not always an indicator of what lies ahead. The Premier League’s all-time youngest goalscorer is James Vaughan, who scored for Everton against Crystal Palace at the age of 16 years and 267 days.
Injuries hampered his Premier League career and now, aged 28, he plays for League One side Bury.
And who could forget the impact striker Federico Macheda made for Manchester United in 2009? Aged 17 years and 226 days, he came off the bench to score a last-gasp winner against Aston Villa – a strike which helped them clinch the title.
But the Italian failed to secure a regular spot for United and is now a free agent following loan spells at numerous clubs.
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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/38153035