Man Utd are about to see why Liverpool hijacked £240k deal for ‘an absolute joy’

Liverpool face Manchester United in the Premier League and is Stefan Bajcetic is likely to make his 18th appearance of the season at Anfield.
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Ahead of one of the most highly-anticipated fixtures in the Premier League fixture list, there are plenty of plots spun out in the build-up.

The rivalry and history between Liverpool and Manchester United will be at the forefront. How the two sides have had a change in fortune this season - with United showing signs they’re heading back to the glory days under Sir Alex Ferguson while Liverpool languish in mid-table after a trophy-laden spell - another.

Meanwhile, decision that Cody Gakpo made to snub a switch to Old Trafford and instead make a surprise January move will also be mentioned. There’s no doubt that the £37m striker’s start to his Anfield career will be scrutinised and, ultimately, if he’s made the right call so far.

Yet in Jurgen Klopp’s starting line-up, there’s likely to be another player who could be on the books of United.

Stefan Bajcetic has been a rare beacon of light in a largely lustless season for Liverpool and is preparing to make his 18th appearance of the season. The 18-year-old is longer is he viewed as a fledgling talent being honed for the future - but as a fully-fledged member of Klopp’s squad.

Bajcetic has been handed more outings than Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones. There have been games when he’s started ahead of captain Jordan Henderson, vice-skipper James Milner and Fabinho all based on merit. For all the talk of a midfield rebuild required in the summer transfer window, with the clamour for Jude Bellingham not relenting, Bajcetic will be a viable option no matter who’s recruited and how much for.

Yet it could well have been the red of United that Bajcetic donned had things gone differently.

Before completing his move to Anfield in December 2020, the Red Devils were in pursuit of the then-16-year-old from Celta Vigo.

According to his father, Srdan - a former Serbia international in his own right - it was United’s interest that accelerated Liverpool’s move.

“Celta does not have the financial power to make professional contracts at that age. Sometimes they go away,” Bajcetic Snr told El Mundo. “So that they do not escape, they must be put in the first team and the youngsters are represented.

“Some scouts from Liverpool saw him and contacted us. But Stefan was still a child, not even 16 years old. He couldn’t go anywhere [under EU law].

“At first, Liverpool told us that they couldn’t do it and then United called us [and said] that they could. Liverpool found out and contacted us again to sign him.”

Due to a change of rules because of Brexit, Liverpool were forced to complete the transfer at breakneck speed. Academy director Alex Inglethorpe and the backroom team completed the deal on New Year’s Eve in 2020. A reported fee of £240,000 was agreed upon.

That figure already looks like a bargain. According to CIES Football Observatory, Bajcetic is now valued at up to £13.3 million. If he continues on an upward trajectory, so will his price tag. Not that Liverpool will be looking to cash in after Bajcetic recently signed a new long-term contract.

Speaking about Bajcetic last month, Klopp couldn’t have lavished more praise on him. The Liverpool boss said: “A top player. It’s a joy to work with him. The mix of Serbia and Spain is good for his football.

“He’s an intelligent boy. Interesting that his dad and Thiago’s dad played together. Thiago took him under his wing. An absolute joy.”

After a 2-0 victory over Wolves, Klopp is unlikely to make many changes to his side against United. Bajcetic was trusted to face Real Madrid in the Champions League and is now in line to face the club he could well have joined.