Jurgen Klopp has been suitably impressed by Ozan Kabak so far as the defender looks to make the most of his opportunities at Liverpool.
Kabak moved to Anfield on the final day of the mid-season transfer window, initially joining on loan from Schalke until the end of the current campaign.
However, the deal reportedly includes a purchase option, meaning the 20-year-old Turkey international has a window in which to prove he should be signed permanently in a deal worth £18million.
The centre-back endured a moment to forget on his debut against Leicester City, colliding with goalkeeper Alisson to gift Jamie Vardy a goal that helped the hosts go on to seal a 3-1 triumph at the King Power Stadium.
Yet Klopp felt Kabak was still solid despite that incident, with the new signing going on to help the Reds keep RB Leipzig at bay in a 2-0 Champions League victory in midweek.
“Big potential, 20 years old and already pretty experienced, to be honest,” Klopp replied when asked about Kabak in his pre-match press conference ahead of the derby against Everton.
“He didn’t take the easy way in his career so far, when you are in Istanbul when you can play for probably one of the biggest teams in the world [Galatasaray] and always be around at the top of the table.
“Then you go to Stuttgart and Schalke, where you have to fight really hard to win football games. That’s good from an education and development point of view.
“Now he’s here and looks really promising. Both games, he looked really solid.
“Yes, we all know what happened in the Leicester game, but around this situation he played a really solid game, not to forget who we played that day. They were second or third in the Premier League, a tough one with all the forwards they have.
“He did really well – long may it continue.”
— Jordan Henderson (@JHenderson) February 19, 2021
Kabak has swapped a Bundesliga relegation battle for a top-four fight with Liverpool and, with Fabinho ruled out again, could be set to continue in the team for the visit of Everton on Saturday.
His performance against Leipzig in the first leg of the last-16 tie certainly suggested he has adapted quickly to the change of scenery. He made twice as many tackles (four) as any of his team-mates in Budapest, also managing a joint match-high three interceptions while completing 84.3 per cent of his attempted passes.
The clean sheet on Tuesday was also a confidence boost for Alisson, as his involvement in the Vardy goal against Leicester came after two high-profile errors in the 4-1 home loss to Manchester City.
While understanding such moments can lead to self-doubt for any player, Klopp made clear to the media that he has never lost faith in his first-choice keeper.
“My confidence? Nothing changed. We are all human beings, Ali as well. It’s not about telling him he’s a world-class goalkeeper, he knows that,” the Liverpool boss said.
“If you made a mistake in the game before, the previous games and it’s nothing you like, humans are all the same. Ali is too smart to ignore it completely.
“Other personalities would perhaps not struggle, but in the end he can rely – and we can rely – on his quality and his attitude, plus how focused he is during a game, how much he lives in it.
“There was not one second of doubt. Ali, for sure, did not have the best time between the two games – that’s how it is. But the Leipzig game was a really good one to get back.”
Liverpool are unbeaten in their previous 23 meetings with Everton in all competitions, which is their longest run against any opponent.
They go into the latest meeting with their neighbours looking to avoid a fourth successive league loss, having not suffered such a run of form in the competition since Gerard Houllier was in charge in December 2002.