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Liverpool might have already found Roberto Firmino’s long-term replacement

There are a couple of starlets in Liverpool’s current U18s group who take most of the headlines.

Mateusz Musialowski has become a name Liverpool fans are familiar with for his dribbling ability, and not without reason – he has already been dubbed by some the ‘Polish Eden Hazard’.

James Balagizi, too, is one to catch the eye. His ability on the ball in midfield is superb and while he can sometimes hold onto it for too long, the characteristics of his game are ideal for how Jurgen Klopp’s senior team plays.

But the same should be said – and likely, over the course of the next few months leading into next season, will be – for Max Woltman, who operates almost as a false nine.

As Liverpool U18s made the FA Youth Cup semi-final by beating Arsenal, Woltman got onto the scoresheet, but impressed even more with his off-the-ball work at Anfield.

He started centrally but moved wide when required, with the fluid front line including Musialowski and Balagizi at times, plus Melkamu Frauendorf when he came off the bench, working perfectly together as one.

Woltman began the season with the basics of working hard and pressing well secured, but the more the season has gone on, the better his numbers have become.

Friday night’s goal – his first at Anfield – took the forward to 12 goals and six assists in his 27 appearances this season at U18 level, with 10 goals in his last eight games in all competitions.

Woltman’s all-round game and ability to link up play has been excellent all year, but with a forward there comes pressure to deliver numbers too – just ask Roberto Firmino.

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Now he is proving he can do that side of the game too, now having been given the central berth on a regular basis.

“Max has done really well,” Liverpool U18s boss Marc Bridge-Wilkinson told the ECHO following the FA Youth Cup win in which Woltman netted the crucial opener.

“He has adapted. The way that we started to play at the start of the season was a little bit different and Max was in a different role back then.

“He adapted to that and did really well but as we have lost players through injury and people moving up to the U23s, he has adapted again.

“His season has been really impressive and it was nice for him to get a goal on such an occasion.

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“[His link-up play] is definitely [something that has progressed this season]. It is something that we have talked about and worked with him on and we have shown him clips and different things.

“But ultimately, it is down to Max. We can show and say things and put different sessions on and all that sort of stuff, but ultimately, Max is the one taking the information on and he is going out and performing like he is.

“He deserves a lot of credit.”

Not 18 until August, Woltman is still one of the younger players in his age group, and began the season playing a wider role, or dovetailing with the prolific Layton Stewart.

But Stewart, who is almost a year older, moved up to the U23s a couple of months ago, before suffering a long-term injury that could keep him out of action for the rest of 2021.

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Since Stewart moved up from U18s football, Woltman has stepped up to successfully fill that void.

Aside from Stewart, Liverpool also have Paul Glatzel among their ranks, so there is much competition to be the next centre forward to step up to the Reds first team.

But Woltman has time on his side at just 17, and is already showing signs of having the all-round quality needed.

If there is one thing that a Klopp forward must display, it is the ability to do a bit of everything – and Woltman is showing signs of being capable of just that.

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