Ben Doak's dramatic rise - Could Scottish winger be a future Liverpool superstar?
Jurgen Klopp has amassed an array of high-calibre attacking talent at Liverpool but Ben Doak could represent the future at Anfield. Mohamed Salah has maintained his excellent goalscoring form with 12 goals in all competitions this season after an eye-watering move to Saudi Arabia failed to materialise, while Darwin Nunez’s attacking output has improved considerably.
The Uruguayan’s prolificacy in front of goal overshadowed his debut season in Merseyside but despite some staggering misses, Nunez has returned seven goals and six assists across 17 appearances for Liverpool this campaign. Luis Diaz, Cody Gakpo and Diogo Jota complete a star-studded collection of attackers with Doak patiently waiting in the wings to challenge his senior colleagues for minutes. Doak is widely regarded as one of the most exciting young talents in European football and his market value has grown exponentially since arriving from Celtic for €700,000 in July 2022. In October’s Transfermarkt Premier League value update, Doak had the third biggest increase in the division of 233%, rising from €3million to €10m.
Doak's impact at Liverpool so far
The 18 year old enjoyed a breakthrough 2022/23 season with some standout displays in the UEFA Youth League earning him his Premier League debut against Aston Villa in December - just two weeks after signing his first professional contract. The talented winger made five first-team appearances in total last season and Klopp spoke glowingly about Doak’s potential this summer. “Ben Doak, obviously nice signs, he’s with us in training again,” Klopp proclaimed. “Special boy, really confident, has something nobody else delivers really, this kind of dribbling, this kind of straightforward bravery, all these kinds of things.”
Klopp clearly believes that Doak can handle playing for Liverpool's first-team and he was the third youngest player to feature in the Premier League this season when he came on against Chelsea on the opening day. Doak was just 17 years and 9 months and, coincidentally, the youngest player to feature in the Premier League is also Scottish - Sheffield United's Ryan Oné.
Doak was handed his first Liverpool start against LASK in the Europa League in September, but a slight muscle injury sustained while on Scotland under-21 duty, sidelined him for several weeks, although he recently returned against Toulouse. Klopp highlighted Doak’s dribbling ability, which is a strength of his game and a throwback to wingers of yesteryear. Inverted wingers have become prevalent in recent years but Doak represents a classic winger, with the pace and trickery to beat defenders. While the Scotland youth international can play on the left, the majority of his minutes with Liverpool have arrived on the right. Salah has been a revelation in that role and he will realistically continue in that position until his contract expires in 2025.
Mo Salah's contract length provides Liverpool summer dilemma
31-year-old Salah moved into the Premier League’s top-ten all-time goalscorers this season but with his contract to expire in 2025, Liverpool will face a decision this summer with interest from Saudi still lingering. Doak isn’t ready to replace Salah yet and he’s still at an early stage of his development but Klopp’s trust in the youngster was evidenced by his decision to introduce him for Salah in the season opener against Chelsea as Liverpool chased a winning goal. Salah is currently valued at €65m
Doak spoke with great maturity after scoring for Scotland’s U-21s against Hungary last month and he was realistic about his opportunities at Liverpool, citing Salah’s excellence. “I look ahead and I know why I’m not playing. It’s because one of the best players in the Premier League is in front of me. So I have no reason to complain. I’m just trying my best to learn from him and all the others as well. They’re dead good with me, always taking me aside to tell me what I should be doing. They help me keep my head as well. They know the situation I’m in. They were all the same as well, they’ve helped me a lot. The gaffer’s quite quiet. I think he knows that I know what he expects. I’m just trying to get on his good side and stay on his good side."
Doak added, “The older players at Liverpool, like Robbo [Andy Robertson] and Mo Salah, quickly remind me, ‘Listen you’re only 17, you’ve not done anything yet, keep grounded and keep working hard’. My first few months when I was in and around it a lot, it was a bit “oh my god, that’s Mo Salah, that’s Andy Robertson. I was starstruck, but I settled in really quickly. They’re all really good. They’re all just normal lads.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities — much more than last season. I’m really enjoying myself when I get an opportunity but, at the same time, it can get frustrating because I’m not playing as often as I’m used to with the youth teams. I’ve just got to bide my time, but my time is coming. I have a good support group around me and they keep me grounded.” Liverpool’s presence in the Europa League will expose Doak to more first-team opportunities and the prodigious talent is one to keep an eye on, for club and country.
Doak's Liverpool teammate Andy Robertson remains Scotland's most valuable player
The teenager is already the 11th highest-valued Scottish player and there’s been significant clamour for him to be included in Steve Clarke’s squad for Euro 2024.
Scotland have enjoyed huge success in recent years, qualifying for the tournament in Germany next summer, but they lack a player with Doak's profile. Clarke is notoriously loyal and he will be expected to select the majority of the squad that secured qualification but Doak could secure a spot on the plane - if he gets enough minutes at Liverpool. Doak's teammate Andy Robertson remains the most valuable Scottish player at €40m, despite his value halving in recent seasons from it's record high of €80m in December 2019.
Scotland captain Robertson will likely be overtaken by Aaron Hickey soon with the 21 year old excelling at Brentford. The versatile full-back's valuation has rose from €18m to €30m since moving to London from Bologna in July 2022.Nathan Patterson and Billy Gilmour's valuations will rise if they continue to play regularly in the English Premier League but Doak remains the biggest Scottish prospect in decades.