Jordon Ibe profile: Why electric Ibe is taking to the Liverpool limelight with ease

'He's a player who gets the crowd on the edge of their seats,' his former manager at Derby Steve McClaren said

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The Independent Football

Liverpool have lately been obsessed by the setting son; Steven Gerrard’s long goodbye, his bid to retire with the FA Cup, is being woven deep into the fabric of their season.

And yet Gerrard’s final Merseyside derby, a largely drab, goalless affair at Goodison Park, was remarkable for the sunrise of Jordon Ibe. The thunderous shot that clattered against the frame of the goal at the Gwladys End was one indication of the teenager’s ability. His performance three days later in the frantic 3-2 win over Tottenham, which showed just why the Premier League might just be worth £5bn, was another.

The game, featuring fine performances from Emre Can and Lazar Markovic, was an eloquent answer to the question that had stalked Brendan Rodgers a couple of months ago, as Liverpool’s season slid towards mediocrity. Why had the Luis Suarez money been splurged on unreliable young talent?

Ibe was then at Derby. There had been a queue of clubs asking for him on loan, but Steve McClaren’s side had won the scramble. It was a shrewd choice for both parties. Derby got their hands on a young footballer of exceptional ability, Ibe got to play in front of large, passionate crowds in one of the Championship’s best teams.

Rodgers argues that, although Ibe is at his best as a right-winger or wing-back, he can play in any of the front four positions. At Pride Park, he was employed on both wings, delivering two high-velocity displays in the League Cup, against Reading and Chelsea. In the former, a 2-0 win, he exhausted a seasoned full-back in the shape of Chris Gunter. In the quarter-final, he did the same to one of Europe’s best, Branislav Ivanovic.

 

The Jordon Ibe that McClaren sent back to Merseyside understands the value of the team rather more than the one who arrived. “When he first came, we gave Jordon one ball and the team the other,” said the Derby manager. “Now, he has learnt how to be a team player and that he needs an end product to his game.”

But what Ibe has about him is electricity. “We wanted to get in a player who would get the crowd on the edge of their seats when they pick the ball up,” said McClaren. “He is like the old jinky wingers we used to get in the game.”

He is close to Daniel Sturridge, who tweeted: “Go follow Jordon Ibe. He is the future of LFC and England” when Ibe scored a hat-trick against Montenegro in a European Under-19 Championship qualifier.

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Jordon Ibe nearly scores for Liverpool against Everton, hitting the post

However, the comparisons are likely to be with Raheem Sterling. Both grew up in London, Ibe in Bermondsey, brought up by Nigerian parents, Sterling in Wembley. Both have pace, technique and an ability to play in a variety of forward positions. One difference is that Ibe possesses a truly vicious shot.

The rise of Ibe can only strengthen Rodgers’ hand when it comes to dealing with Sterling and his agent, Aidy Ward, who it seems will not be content until his client is either playing with Cristiano Ronaldo or being paid like him.

Ibe, you trust, will take Rodgers’ advice on what happens to young footballers who get “too much too soon”. Nigeria could offer him full international football but since the Nigerian FA possesses a level of competence that makes our own FA seem like German rocket scientists, Sturridge’s prediction that Ibe is the future of English football is likely to be tested.

What is remarkable is that Rodgers chose to throw him into two of the biggest games of Liverpool’s season – the Merseyside derby and a punch-for-punch encounter with their rivals for a Champions League place.

The only concession Rodgers made was not telling Ibe until the Friday he would be starting the derby. “It doesn’t matter what the game is,” he said. “If you believe in them enough, and they know the team is with them, it can really push them on.”

The fact that he made his debut for Wycombe Wanderers as a 15-year-old suggests why Ibe might handle the big time better than some teenagers. His first booking was for running over to hug his mum after scoring against Sheffield Wednesday. He has been around a bit.

When he scored, the word “Dreams” was written across his chest. It was admittedly only because the bed showroom company was Wycombe’s shirt sponsor but there was something prescient about it.

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