Rio Ferdinand has picked out Ajax’s next two rising stars after Liverpool opened their Champions League campaign with a 1-0 victory over the Dutch side.
Jurgen Klopp’s side picked up three points thanks to Nicolas Tagliafico’s freak own goal, and a resolute defensive performance despite the absence of injured Virgil van Dijk.
Fabinho excelled alongside Joe Gomez at centre-half, while Curtis Jones continued his progression with 45 minutes in midfield, and Klopp brought on his second-string attack for the last half-hour of the game.
This is not the Ajax side who stunned Real Madrid and Juventus on their way to the Champions League semi-finals two seasons ago, with the stars of that team now scattered across some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
But after watching Ajax lose by just the single goal on Wednesday, Ferdinand highlighted two young stars who could soon be drawing admiring glances from the continent’s big guns.
He hailed 20-year-old centre-back Perr Schuurs for his role in keeping Liverpool’s front three quiet, and 18-year-old midfielder Ryan Gravenberch, who refused to be fazed up against Gini Wijnaldum, Jones and James Milner.
“The young centre-back Schuurs was very, very good,” the former United defender told BT Sport .
“He got rolled for the goal but I think a young 20-year-old playing against a Liverpool front line the way he did, I thought he was a good replacement for De Ligt.
“Not a direct replacement – he’s only been away for a year, but someone who can come in and take that mantle. Commanding.”
On Gravenberch, Ferdinand said: “I think that other kid in midfielder Gravenberch was very good.
“He looked very confident, really composed on the ball. Youngest player to play for Ajax, as a 16-year-old beating Clarence Seedorf’s record. He looked very composed and accustomed to this level.”
Atalanta won 4-0 away to Danish side Midtjylland in Wednesday’s other Group D clash. The Serie A side will host Ajax next Tuesday, while Liverpool will entertain Midtjylland.
The Reds will play Ajax again at Anfield on December 1.
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