Arne Slot should listen to Wayne Rooney assessment of 'fantastic' Liverpool youngster

Wayne Rooney during the Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Nottingham Forest and Manchester United at City Ground on February 28, 2024 in Nottingham, England.
Wayne Rooney is among those to have given a glowing verdict on a Liverpool talent Arne Slot will soon be coaching. -Credit:Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

A daunting task lies ahead of Arne Slot. Not only is he replacing Jürgen Klopp, one of the all-time Liverpool greats, he is joining at a time when many other elements are in flux too.

Generally speaking, the reshaped backroom structure should empower Slot to do well. The return of Michael Edwards as the new CEO of Football for FSG provides some big-picture leadership, and Richard Hughes will take the lead on transfers when he joins as sporting director.

By the same token, Slot won't be the sole or even necessarily leading voice when it comes to the big contract calls. Nevertheless, he arrives at Anfield with more than a hint of uncertainty in that regard, given that Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold are set to enter the final year of their respective contracts.

READ MORE: What Mohamed Salah allegedly said to Jürgen Klopp in Liverpool touchline outburst

READ MORE: Arne Slot feelings clear on transfer instructions left by Jurgen Klopp to FSG

It emerged in The Athletic today that Liverpool expects Salah to stay for at least another season, although that still leaves the contract question up in the air. You'd hope the Alexander-Arnold discussion would be a straightforward one, at least from the club's side, but it would be good to put that particular topic to bed.

And even if Slot is mostly sheltered from the broader squad planning decisions, he still has a great deal to sort out on the pitch. He is simultaneously inheriting a squad with sky-high potential and plenty of issues, with both sides of that coin evident over the course of this season.

Defensive porousness and attacking profligacy will both need to be addressed to turn Liverpool into true contenders. One part of that will be personnel decisions, as Slot seeks to settle on his best XI.

That's far from simple. Darwin Núñez is a walking dilemma, with the number of chances he gets constantly having to be weighed up against the number of chances he misses. Salah himself could cause a headache, with Klopp's decision to bench him lately leading to unseemly tensions.

But even if Slot can sift through Klopp's current first team and make the necessary assessments, he still has a small army of young talent over which he needs to run the rule. Liverpool's youth system has been a point of real pride in recent years, and the new manager cannot afford to overlook the next Alexander-Arnold or Curtis Jones.

Some, like Jarell Quansah or Conor Bradley, have already got significant tastes of first-team action. But there are others who are on the cusp, and Slot can't take too long getting up to speed.

In the case of one youngster, he would do well to heed the assessment once made by Wayne Rooney. Unemployed since a shambolic spell as Birmingham City manager, the former Manchester United striker crossed paths with a Liverpool prospect at Derby County.

That's where Liverpool unearthed Kaide Gordon. Injury woes have seen him disappear off the public's radar, but Slot cannot afford to forget about him, and Rooney sums up why that is.

"Kaide is a fantastic player and he has got a lot of potential,” said Rooney, Gordon's coach at the time, in 2020. "Of course there will be interest in Kaide because he is a fantastic player, so we expect there to be interest in him."

Sure enough, that interest came in from Liverpool, and Klopp quickly exposed Gordon to some first-team action. After an injury hell, he's moving closer to the periphery of the first-team again now, having come off the bench for the briefest of Premier League cameos against Bournemouth in January. He also played 75 minutes in the Europa League against Union SG.

Rated by Rooney and Klopp alike, Gordon is still just 19, and he's one Slot can't afford to ignore. Salah may be staying put, but the question of his long-term successor remains active, and the teenager has a chance to ultimately put himself in that conversation. says: It's a massive pre-season for Gordon and a whole host of other Liverpool youngsters. Slot will come in with some preconceived ideas, but it's the closest to a blank slate there has been in almost a decade, and plenty of players will back themselves to make an impression.

Rooney has long since had Gordon marked out as one to watch, but there's so many more too. Bobby Clark looks ready for a bigger role, Stefan Bajčetić is back from a serious injury, Fábio Carvalho and Tyler Morton are coming back off good loans at Hull, and that's still only really scratching the surface. No wonder Slot's said to be satisfied being a head coach rather than a manager — there's more than enough to keep him busy!