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Curtis Jones has been in Jurgen Klopp's plans for years at Liverpool due to teenager's confidence

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Curtis Jones has been in Jurgen Klopp's plans for years - he wowed the Liverpool boss with his confidence and impresses Jordan Henderson with his work ethic... his path to the first team mirrors Steven Gerrard and he won't surrender his place easilyCurtis Jones capped a top display with the winning goal for Liverpool over AjaxThe 19-year-old has stepped up as Liverpool have been dogged by major injuries Jones is full of belief in his ability and he has been itching for regular minutesRalf Rangnick said that Jones is 'one of the most exciting youngsters in England' 

This isn't the first time Liverpool fans have been excited over a homegrown talent with No 17 on his back. For so long, it was Steven Gerrard's number - not until Rafa Benitez arrived in 2004 did he switch to No 8, before evolving into one of the best midfielders in the game.

Now, it's Curtis Jones with the 17 shirt and it won't have gone unnoticed that the 19-year-old filled in at right back against Brighton on Saturday, a position where Gerrard cut his teeth in the early days of his Anfield career.

Too many comparisons with Gerrard could be considered unfair on a player who is still learning the ropes but the small similarities are there to be recognised and if there is one man who will embrace them, it's Jones himself.

Curtis Jones capped his brilliant form of late with the decisive goal as Liverpool beat Ajax 1-0

It has been a brilliant year for Jones - who started 2020 with a stunning goal against Everton

Jones has now taken the No 17 shirt - once occupied by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard

'Scouser, very confident, can't wait to play in the first-team,' a beaming Klopp said of Jones back in January after his stunning winner against Everton in the FA Cup. 'I've known him three-and-a-half years. He will be a Liverpool player if nothing strange happens, 100 per cent. That he scores this goal, I'm not surprised.' 

Perhaps remarkably, for all the confidence Klopp said Jones has in his football ability, the youngster actually had to clarify how nerves had got the better of him in his post-match interview in that win over Everton.

A couple of times he tripped over his words while speaking to BBC Sport on the Anfield pitch alongside Adam Lallana, to the extent where some Liverpool fans who were praising him on Twitter for fronting up to the live cameras with a stutter.

'Not a stutter, just nervous being put straight on the spot!' Jones said in reply.

So much is made of how tough Liverpool's first team is to break into. For Jones, that task got even harder this summer when Thiago Alcantara rolled through the door at Melwood with a Champions League medal around his neck.

Georginio Wijnaldum stayed, as well, and while there is uncertainty over his future at Anfield beyond this season, his presence represented another elite talent for Jones to dislodge, among other things. He already had made no secret of his impatience.

'I've had a bit of a tough time - well, I wouldn't say tough but frustrating at times, being on the bench and then getting a bit of a taste and then on the bench,' Jones told the BBC after Everton, sounding nothing like a youngster prepared to bide his time. 'In my head, I'm begging to come on.'

Jurgen Klopp said Jones has a bright future at Liverpool and handed him a new deal in July

Klopp has snubbed offers from clubs to sign Jones on loan, despite his many midfield options

Jones has gone from strength to strength this season thanks to more regular game time

But despite his bulk of midfield options, Klopp never entertained the idea of Jones continuing his development on loan somewhere else this season. His path was at Anfield and Klopp had mapped out his route to the first team long before this season - as Ralf Rangnick, the former manager and then director of RB Leipzig, found out.

'I was asking Jurgen about Curtis two years ago, if they would send him to Leipzig on loan for a year or two, and he said no,' Rangnick, the architect of Leipzig's rise in German football, told FourFourTwo in September. 

'Jurgen wants to keep him. I think he knows what kind of massive talent he has with Curtis in his squad. He's one of the most exciting young players in England, currently. For him, the problem is he has so many top players ahead of him. The good thing is that most of those homegrown Liverpudlian young players, they don't want to leave.'

And Rangnick is right about Klopp's belief in Jones. There is a feeling sometimes that the Liverpool boss has to hold himself back from too effusive in his praise of the 19-year-old.

'If I would be sure he wouldn't watch my interview I would say something else,' Klopp told BT Sport after Tuesday's Ajax win. 'What a game for a 19-year-old boy. I'm really happy for him.'

Jones signed a new long-term deal at Liverpool back in July and marked it with his first Premier League goal in the 2-0 win over Aston Villa, moments after coming on as an 85th minute substitute.

After signing his contract in July, Jones scored his first Premier League goal for Liverpool

Reds captain Jordan Henderson has been impressed by Jones's desire for improvement

Now Jones has made the Liverpool team, he is not going to let his spot go without a fight

'This is Curtis in a nutshell - he comes on the pitch and his first touch is a finish,' Klopp laughed. 'He's signed a new contract - good for him and for us. We will have a lot of fun in the future.' 

Yet for all his self-belief, Jones has impressed Liverpool's senior stars with his work ethic. Klopp prides himself on having a squad of grafters but the desire to put in the hard yards is difficult to teach.

'Curtis wants to be better every day,' captain Jordan Henderson said in July. 'And not just with a ball at his feet. In every aspect of being a professional. Sometimes I have to remind myself how young he is, because he has the physical attributes of a much more experienced player. The crucial thing now is that he continues doing exactly what he's done to get here. 

'If he keeps that attitude of making sure improvement and learning is his number one focus, he really can achieve anything he wants.'

But everyone needs a bit of a helping hand along the way. While Jones won't have wished injuries upon his team-mates, he simply wouldn't have played as much this season if they had all stayed fit.

Tuesday's match-winning appearance against Ajax was his eighth start of the campaign but the 19-year-old is doing so much more than plugging a gap. He was arguably Liverpool's most dangerous player in the attacking third against the Dutch side - he cracked the post with a shot from the edge of the area in the first half.

The midfielder's appearance against Ajax was his eighth start of the season for Liverpool 

Jones's path into the first-team is a hard one, with rivals such as Georginio Wijnaldum (left)

Trent Alexander-Arnold may soon have a fellow Scouser in the starting line-up at Liverpool

For perhaps the first time in his Liverpool career, he is expecting to start matches and he will surely be one of the first names on the team-sheet for Sunday's tricky encounter at home to Wolves - the first where fans will be able to return since the first coronavirus lockdown.

Klopp often says how one of his favourite things about football is that when you solve one problem, another will soon rear its head. That's precisely what Jones will do for Klopp's long-term planning, once the likes of Alcantara, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain return to fitness and Fabinho can be deployed in midfield once again.

But his emergence will likely have a bigger knock-on impact on the Anfield songwriters rather than Klopp, who will already been giving time to that selection conundrum. 

Liverpool fans would sing of Trent Alexander-Arnold being 'the Scouser in the team' before Covid kept them out of Anfield. By the time they return en masse, that song might need reworking. 

For more news relating to Everton, visit our sister site EFC Live.

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