Rhian Brewster stole the headlines on Tuesday afternoon after he scored twice during Liverpool’s pre-season game against RB Salzburg to draw the game level and prevent the Reds from suffering a rather embarrassing defeat ahead of the new season which is set to begin on September 12.
But who is the 20-year-old and how might he fit into this Liverpool side?
Brewster joined Liverpool’s academy in 2016 before he was promoted to the under 23’s side. Described as a quick and hungry forward who can score with either foot, he signed his first professional contract with the Reds in June 2018 and made his competitive debut for the club against Milton Keynes in the EFL cup last year.
Given that he didn’t contribute towards Liverpool’s Champions League triumph in 2019, Brewster was mocked online for his jubilant celebrations after the final whistle in Madrid, but it was clear that he was becoming a well-known figure amongst supporters.
He then made three appearances in the first team for Liverpool at the start of the 2019-2020 campaign before he joined Swansea City on loan until the end of the season.
Over the course of seven months, Brewster scored 11 goals from 22 matches which pushed Swansea to compete for promotion to the Premier League, but the Welsh side ultimately fell short in their efforts. On his departure from the club, Brewster said on Instagram that he was “proud of everything that we’ve done, and I want to give huge a thanks to everyone at Swansea for this crazy experience. One I won’t forget.”
He missed out on Liverpool’s title celebrations in June but joined the rest of the squad as they travelled to Austria for a two-week training camp in August which was rounded off with two pre-season friendlies. The first of these was against VfB Stuttgart in which Klopp made 11 changes at the break before Brewster scored Liverpool’s third on the 68th minute with a close-range finish.
Then came the game against RB Salzburg at the Red Bull Arena. 1,250 fans were allowed into the stadium as coronavirus restrictions continue to be lightened throughout Southern Europe and the Reds were treated to better weather conditions and a far better playing surface to compete on.
With that in mind, it undeniably was a poor first half performance from Liverpool. Fabinho and Gomez were caught off guard on a number of occasions which allowed the hosts to go 2-0 up within 13 minutes and it wasn’t until the hour mark that Jurgen Klopp decided to make a host of changes to his side and Brewster was brought on.
Curtis Jones struggled to make an impact on the game and Elliot was visibly frustrated at himself as he continued to give away possession, but it was Brewster who saved the day for the Reds in Austria.
It took a moment of brilliance from James Milner on the wing who ran through Salzburg’s defence before he crossed the ball in towards Brewster who made a clinical strike into the top right-hand corner to give Liverpool hope.
Salzburg’s goalkeeper then failed to clear the ball under the attacking presence of Curtis Jones on the 81st minute and the ball fell to Brewster who struck it brilliantly on his right foot to draw the game level.
It was a pre-season friendly; it contributes almost nothing at all to Liverpool’s upcoming season, but it did showcase how much Brewster has improved over the past year and it showed supporters that, like Firmino and Origi, Brewster is able to make an impact when it matters most.
So, what’s next for the 20-year-old?
It has been reported that Liverpool are unsure as to whether or not Brewster will stay put or go back out on loan ahead of the new season (Daily Express), but he could feature in this weekend’s clash against Arsenal for the Community Shield.
It’s been a great year for him so far, but it’s difficult to make a definitive judgement on whether or not he’s ready to take on the Premier League. If not for Liverpool, then there is the option of loaning Brewster out to another Premier League club – Aston Villa, Newcastle, Burnley, Brighton, Crystal Palace and Fulham have all shown their interest in the youngster, but there might not be a guarantee that he would join any of these clubs as a first team option.
After the pre-season game against Salzburg, some people on social media even mentioned the option of selling Divock Origi and using Brewster as Liverpool’s second or third choice forward for the upcoming season, but these claims feel a little premature (even when we take into consideration the poor run of form which plagued Origi throughout the 2019-2020 campaign)
Firmino’s goal scoring record in the Premier League has continued to dip over the past few seasons from 15 (2017-18) to 12 (2018-19) to 9 from the most recent campaign. He only recently ended his goal drought at Anfield which lasted over a year, but it is well known that the Brazilian is widely regarded as the “system” within this Liverpool side which allows them to be such an creative and effective threat going forward. Just last March, Klopp said that “it’s pretty rare that you meet a person like Bobby who is so selfless and unselfish. He’s like, ball there, pass the ball and he’s really happy about it.” Then again, it would be surprising to see anyone break into Liverpool’s starting 11 (as a forward) before one of the front three decide to move elsewhere.
If Timo Werner had completed a move to Liverpool earlier on in the summer, then the opportunities for Brewster to get game time at Anfield would have been cut even shorter. With no new faces arriving however, it might be more worthwhile for Brewster to stick around and see how much game time he can secure under Jurgen Klopp next season and to see what kind of an impact he can have.
The 10-day training camp in Austria has allowed Brewster to train alongside some of the best in world football again and if he does stay, he’ll be picking up this experience on a much more consistent basis. He’s still young though, and at his age, game time will be the most important factor towards his development – wherever that might be.