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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Player profile: Liverpool signed versatile defender Mikel San Jose Dominguez from Athletic Bilbao in August 2007.

The youngster, who penned a three-year deal at Anfield, helped lead Spain to UEFA Under-19 Championship glory in July 2007.

On arriving in Merseyside, San Jose said: "It was a surprise for me but I have decided to accept the chance at Liverpool. I am very excited but now I know that I have to work more each day to get in the first team."

The centre-back, who can also play in midfield, trains at Melwood with the reserves.

He helped Gary Ablett's second string concede just eight goals in 18 games en route to winning the national title last season.

In February, Rafa Benitez handed San Jose a place on the bench during a league visit to Stamford Bridge.

David Fairclough says: "He looked strong in his first appearance for the reserves against Middlesbrough and he's really developed throughout the season. He was brilliant in the national final against Aston Villa, only narrowly missing out on man-of-the-match.

"San Jose is confident and very aware positionally. I look at him and see shades of Gary Gillespie – he has that elegance.

"He's adapted quickly to English football and maybe he'll get a go in pre-season. It is hard to see him featuring in the Premier League next season but he's definitely one to look out for in the years ahead."

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Player profile:

Liverpool signed Spanish prodigy Daniel Pacheco last summer.

The 17-year-old's transfer continued a trend of teenagers leaving Barcelona for the Premier League.

With youngsters in Spain unable to sign professional contracts until the age of 18, starlets such as Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique, Francisco Merida and now Pacheco have all been snapped up by English clubs.

The forward is a regular for Liverpool Reserves, scoring on his first start against Bolton and helping them win the league in 2007-08.

What he lacks in height, he makes up for in skill, weaving his magic between the lines.

Pacheco also represents Spain Under-17s, for whom he bagged a hat-trick against San Marino in October 2007.

Tony Barrett says:

"Pacheco is a prodigious talent who looks like he has a trick up his sleeve every time he gets the ball. He's got two good feet and an eye for goal.

"He's small but brave and always looks willing to take possession. When he does get the ball he can move away from defenders with a trick or a drop of the shoulder.

"There's a few in the reserves – the likes of Damien Plessis, Krisztian Nemeth and Emiliano Insua – but Pacheco really captures the imagination.

"His first challenge is to become a regular for the reserves. He still needs to develop physically because he's only slight.

"If he was thrown in at the deep end now there is a danger he would be bullied, but he has a great chance in the future. If he features in the Carling Cup next season, I'm positive fans will like what they see."

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Player profile: Steven Irwin is a player with a bit of everything – nice touch, a fierce tackle and great leadership qualities.

The versatile midfielder cum defender has made great strides since featuring as a substitute against Manchester United in the 2006 Youth Cup final.

Still only 17, he's become a star of Hughie McAuley's under-18s and now skippers the side.

Last season also saw Irwin feature for the second string.

Academy manager John Owens said: "Steven is very versatile. His all-round ability means he can play in just about any position - and he has done. Central midfield is probably his best position, but his reading of the game allows him to adapt."

John Hynes says: "Irwin really does have a bit of everything, and that shows in the fact he can play in midfield or at the back.

"His touch is great and he can read the game better than most of his peers. From the occasions I've seen him play it's clear he's a true leader. He also has a really strong tackle.

"As well as all this, he knows where the goal is. He scored a winner in last season's Youth Cup and got another against City. He can clearly score important goals.

"He played a couple of games for the reserves last season, so he's clearly rated at Melwood. He's definitely one to watch for the future."

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Player profile: Right-back Stephen Darby graduated to Melwood during the summer of 2006 after the best part of a decade at the Academy.

The Scouser has yet to earn his senior competitive debut, though did make the bench when Liverpool travelled to the Ataturk to take on Galatasaray in the Champions League group stages in December 2006.

Darby was a key part of the 2006 and 2007 FA Youth Cup victories, wearing the captain's armband in the first of those wins.

He was also skipper when Liverpool Reserves lifted the Dallas Cup following victory over Mexican side Tigres in March 2008, receiving the trophy from Reds co-owner Tom Hicks.

Two months later, the consistent defender, who grew up supporting Liverpool, lifted the national reserve league trophy at Anfield after a 3-0 victory over southern champions Aston Villa.

Steve Hunter says: "Stephen Darby is one of the most consistent performers that Liverpool have ever had in their reserve team.

"The likeable Scouser never has a bad game and I firmly believe he wouldn't let anyone down if he was given a chance at right-back. He is an astute reader of the game, can get forward to good effect as well as being solid in defence.

"In fact, I have never seen a left-winger give him a real tough time, and his man-of-the-match display against Aston Villa in the play-off final at Anfield was a real lionheart captain's performance.

"Darby is dubbed the 'steady Eddie' of the reserve team and I know Gary Ablett rates him highly. Ablett gave him the reserve team captaincy this term and he ended the campaign lifting three trophies.

"He may not get the attention the likes of Damien Plessis and Krisztian Nemeth get, but if you were to ask any of his teammates, they would say you need the Stephen Darbys of this world in your team.

"He has had a little taste of first-team experience having been on the bench away at Galatasaray in the 2006-2007 season but he has never forgotten his Academy roots. After the four-hour return flight from Istanbul he was driven down to the Hawthorns and played the full game, including extra-time, to help the youth team through to the fourth round."

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·

Player profile: Hungarian prodigy Krisztian Nemeth is the most talked about player in Liverpool's reserve ranks.

The 19-year-old striker arrived from MTK Hungaria alongside compatriot Andras Simon in the summer of 2007 having impressed in the previous year's UEFA Under-17 Championships.

After signing a three-year deal, he quickly set about finding the back of the net, bagging a brace on his second-string debut against Man City.

If this had Kopites purring, a double in the mini-derby a week later really got the terraces buzzing.

Nemeth went on to score his 9th of the league campaign as the reserves clinched the national title at Anfield against Aston Villa in May 2008.

Later that month, after netting the crucial goal against Portugal to take Hungary U19s to the European Championships, he received his first senior international call up.

With lethal finishing, great movement and a fine touch, big things are expected of Nemeth, who has yet to make his first-team bow for Liverpool.

Steven Gerrard says: "Krisztian looks really lively and sharp up front, and he's scoring all the goals for the reserves.

"It's difficult to put a time on when he's going to get into the first team because he's still young, he's still learning. But he's got a lot of ability and a bright future.

"I'm sure Rafa will have an idea of when he's going to be ready but he's already joined in with the first team in training and he's always held his own.

"There are quite a few players I could have chosen. Jay Spearing is a fantastic player. He's only a small guy but ability-wise he's certainly got it in abundance."
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