Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was effusive in his praise of teen defender Joe Gomez and new acquisition James Milner and after the Reds’ 2-1 over Brisbane Roar on Friday night.
To kick off their Aussie tour Liverpool came back from a goal deficit to win 2-1 in front of over 50,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium.
Gomez with a barnstorming performance as a left back caught the eye, while Milner scored the winner and bossed central midfield.
“He’s staying. I’ve seen enough in this period; you judge young players, I always bring them in and over pre-season have a good idea of whether we’re going to keep them or not,” Rodgers responded when quizzed about Gomez, brought in from Charlton Athletic and an England youth international.
“Seeing him, in particular close at hand and his personality – he’ll be staying, he’ll get games.
“He’s only 18 years of age, but seeing him play at left-back for the first time, he looked an outstanding athlete and a really good footballer.
"I’ve seen him at centre-half and at right-back, but I wanted to see him at left-back – and I thought he was outstanding.
“We took him in from Charlton where he played as a centre-half as a two, played in a back three and he’s also played as a right-back, so he’s got all the tools to play across the back four. You saw him tonight play at left-back – he’s a big talent.”
As for Milner, who scored the winner, Rodgers was certain he was onto a winner with the former City and Villa man.
The summer signing made the decisive impact on 75 minutes to seal the comeback win for the Reds with a deflected shot that beat the in-form Jamie Young.
"He and Jordan Henderson could run to Adelaide!” Rodgers said when asked about Milner’s fitness and commitment.
"The work they put into a game, how they press, how they run, but also the quality. We wanted more goals from midfield and you see James, that was the idea because when he plays in a central area he can really penetrate the box.
"He got in a number of times, had a couple of shots that went close and then he got his goal. He's a top-class operator and I think playing in this team and at Liverpool he'll probably shine even more.
He continued: “James probably suffered a little bit from being such a good player and such a good footballer.
"He has played at right-back, wide on the left, wide on the right, as a striker, a midfield player. You always want players like that in your squad, but as a player you want to play in your favourite position.
"Probably the best season James ever had was at Aston Villa playing as a central midfield player. He's going to be huge for us.”
Rodgers also noted the progression in Aussie football since his last visit with the Reds in 2013. And that hasn’t changed after Roar gave a good account of themselves on Friday night against a team that were physically too strong in the end.
"We're only 12 days in and it was a very good game. Brisbane Roar were very good technically. It is a real mark of Australian football and the improvements they're making.
"I think the structure here and the federation is paying off - you see a real top-level, technical game from the teams.
"They've got good ideas with 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 and that will always breed quality players when you're able to play quality football. I think you saw that, probably more so in the first half.
"But I was really pleased with my players at this period of pre-season with the intensity in their game and how hard they worked, as well as the quality of the goals.
“It was a wonderful night in a great stadium with great supporters. It was a really enjoyable game.
"To come on a winter's evening and get over 50,000 people and to hear 'You'll Never Walk Alone' sung this far away from home is truly remarkable.”