Young Republic of Ireland striker Evan Ferguson is fast becoming one of the Premier League’s hottest properties.
The 18-year-old scored ten times in 25 appearances for Brighton in 2022/23 and has kicked off the new campaign with four goals in as many outings – including a fine hat-trick against Newcastle.
The forward, however, has not been involved for his country during the international break, after picking up a knee injury in the win over Newcastle.
Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk, whose Netherlands side beat Ireland 2-1 on Sunday, described Ferguson’s absence as a ‘big blow’ while calling the teenager a ‘promising striker’ before the match.
The two might have been teammates at club level had things worked out differently.
Last year, Ferguson revealed he had undertaken trials at a variety of clubs, including Liverpool, before deciding to join Brighton from Irish side Bohemians in 2021.
He told the Athletic of the Reds’ interest: “I went to Liverpool a few times. It’s a good club, but you see so many boys at Liverpool just fading away and there’s no chance to get in the first team.
“I was thinking, ‘Do I just want to play two years of under-18s and then go to the 23s and go from there to where?’
“Brighton is a good club. The people working around are always there to help.”
Additionally, back in May, Ferguson doubled down on his reasons for spurning the Reds’ interest.
He is quoted by Sussex Live as saying: “I have been on a trial to a few clubs but that [Liverpool] was the main one [other than Brighton]. I was on trial with Manchester United, Celtic, and Everton. I think from the outside it was obvious to see that [pathway] and most of the managers here have given chances to young players.
“It came down to the fact that if you come to Brighton it’s a pathway through. If you go to a team such as Liverpool then they can buy a striker for £60m to £70m.
“At Brighton, they like to bring their academy players through and give them a chance. I’d say that was the reason, looking long term rather than short term. So I’d say that this was the final reason.”
While Ferguson’s concerns about pathways to the first-team at a club the size of Liverpool are understandable, the Reds do have a better track record than some at bringing through exceptional young talent.
Since Trent Alexander-Arnold’s breakthrough from the academy in 2017, the likes of Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliot and Stefan Bajcetic have all stepped up to earn their place in Jurgen Klopp’s first-team plans, while the likes of Ben Doak and Jarell Quansah – who made his debut in Liverpool’s win over Newcastle back in August – look set for important roles this season.
Ferguson, ultimately, appears bound for the top. Reports over the summer linked the wonderkid with a big-money move to Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham, while Manchester City have also been named as another club tracking his progress.