Liverpool’s academy players returned to pre-season training on Monday, a week ahead of the senior team doing likewise in Kirkby, with the young starlets aiming to progress again in the new campaign.
For some, the first week spent with their age groups will lead into working with the senior group — Bobby Clark, for instance, is one that Pep Lijnders picked out as a strong possibility for that — with Mateusz Musialowski one of those hopeful of taking the next step too.
Modelling his game on Lionel Messi, Musialowski signed for Liverpool from Polish outfit SMS Łódź in the summer of 2020, having scored a reported 133 goals in 80 appearances for his former side at youth level. He then scored a brilliant solo goal on his debut against Crewe Alexandra in pre-season during a 5-0 victory.
The Polish forward has trained with the first team previously (he, alongside the likes of Kaide Gordon and Tyler Morton, was with the senior team for pre-season in Austria a year ago and will expect to be involved at that level again) and he played in a behind-closed-doors friendly in March 2021 during an international break, where he impressed.
Last season, he scored a total of 10 goals in 26 appearances as he largely stepped up to U23 level, though he did suffer with at least one injury that hampered his campaign. There was a chunk of the season, around the mid-point, where Musialowski missed consecutive matches with a knock and his progression stuttered, but the raw talents remains.
He can play in any of the forward three positions (something Liverpool value highly) and is instinctive — his background away from a professional academy set-up as he grew up means he is still a little bit raw, having not been overly-coached.
That does not mean, though, that he does not fit in at Liverpool, where his talents have at various points impressed a wide range of observers. “Can we talk about [Musialowski’s] crossing?” said Virgil van Dijk during a training drill with Musialowski at the AXA Training Centre in January. “His crossing is magnificent. The consistency is scary!”
“When Musialowski played at Rakow Czestochowa, he drew some big clubs’ attention,” one Polish football expert told Liverpool.com. “He was involved in a Legia Warsaw football training camp but his parents weren’t sure about the move to Warsaw.
“They chose SMS Łódź instead that’s because he could commute to Łódź twice a week for training and then for the third time for a weekend’s match.
“In Warsaw, it was out of the question — he would have to move in — so basically his parents had an influence on his first steps. There were later many indications that he would go to Arsenal, where he was tested on a few occasions but their academy coaches weren’t sure whether to sign him or not.
“Maybe they were waiting too long because [football agency] Stellar Group stepped in and sent him to Liverpool.”
Borussia Dortmund were also credited with an interest in Musialowski — sure-fire proof, usually, that a young player is heading on the right path — while Eden Hazard is another player who the 18-year-old has been compared with thanks to his dribbling ability.
Having signed his first professional contract in July 2021, a few months after wowing Liverpool supporters with a mazy dribble and finish against Newcastle United, now is the time for Musialowski to take the next step.
In the immediate term, that means staying fit and playing a part in pre-season. Longer term, that could well mean a loan move to develop his game and gain consistent senior minutes.
Turning 19 in October, Musialowski is at an age where the next step will be vital. This summer’s pre-season should be a good clue as to what that might be.
**You can read more about Bobby Clark, another player profiled in our LFC Academy series, by clicking here.