22-year-old Portuguese midfielder, Joao Texeira, is something of an enigma to Liverpool fans. Having joined the club back in January 2012 in a deal worth £830,000 from Sporting Lisbon, Teixeira has made just a solitary Premier League appearance for the Reds. Later this month, he turns 23, and at such an age we can hardly consider him to be a ‘rising star’ or ‘young prospect’ anymore. By this stage in a player’s career, they will usually either have broken into the senior team, or they will have moved on elsewhere to play regular first team football. For Joao Teixeira, 2016 promises to be a defining year in his footballing career. Entering the final 6 months of his contract at Liverpool, he is rapidly running out of time to force his way into Klopp’s plans for the future. Conversely, the fact that Teixeira has not been let go suggests that he could be a talent worth pursuing- a late bloomer, perhaps.
A prominent figure in the Liverpool U21 sides during his early Liverpool days, Teixeira was sent out on loan in the 2012/13 season where he made just two appearances for Brentford. In 2013/14, he came off the bench late on at Craven Cottage with the scores level and 2-2, and played a through ball into Daniel Sturridge who won the penalty which Gerrard converted in the last minute to secure a vital three points. In that very brief cameo, Teixeira made a small but significant contribution in that most memorable of seasons. 2014/15 was Teixeira’s finest year to date, making 28 starts for Brighton & Hove Albion where he scored 6 goals and registered 4 assists. His season was curtailed in April as he suffered a broken leg, but such was the impression he had already made at the South coast club that he was awarded Brighton’s Young Player of the Year Award, as well as Liverpool’s Academy Player of the Year.
Having enjoyed such a successful loan spell, gaining valuable experience at a good level, the stage was set for Teixeira to finally break into the first team at Liverpool. He registered 2 assists in the opening game of Liverpool’s pre-season tour versus Thai Allstars, but this was to be Teixeira’s final contribution during Rodgers’ tenure at the club, as he never featured in any competitive game under the Northern Irishman thereafter. Following the appointment of Jurgen Klopp in October, Teixeira was named in the starting lineup in a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth at Anfield in the League Cup. The Portuguese midfielder shone, grasping this rare opportunity to impress in front of the home crowd. His nonchalant backheel flick was cleared off the line as Clyne swept in the rebound- Teixeira was unfortunate not to have scored a sublime first Liverpool goal.
Since then, however, further opportunities have been limited to the sporadic appearance on the substitute’s bench, with precious little game time for Teixeira. As a diminutive, technically gifted attacking midfielder, Teixeira finds himself way down the pecking order behind the likes of Coutinho, Lallana, Firmino and Ibe, which represents a significant barrier to the first team. However, given Liverpool’s current injury crisis, which sees a misfiring Christian Benteke as the only available striker, with Coutinho and Ibe struggling with hamstring injuries, this presents Teixeira with a genuine chance to stake a claim for a place in the side. Hid his reputation no harm with a classy, skillful display in the 2-2 draw at Exeter on Friday. Among a youthful and inexperienced Liverpool lineup, Teixeira’s quality stood out. He always had time on the ball and he also had the confidence to pull off some neat flicks and tricks. His final ball was at times rushed and misguided, and his influence faded slightly as the game progressed, but it was clear to see that Teixeira was the best player on the pitch, a cut above the rest. And he knew it.
So where does Teixeira go from now? It remains to be seen whether this was just another fleeting performance whilst Klopp chose to rest his senior players, or whether Teixeira impressed Klopp sufficiently to be considered more regularly as part of the first team match day squad. Whenever I have watched him play, I’ve always been impressed. Not only is Teixeira a good dribbler of the ball with clever vision and awareness, he is also willing to track back to win possession. This work ethic will be crucial in convincing Klopp if Teixeira is to have a future under the German’s management. From a personal perspective, I would like to see Teixeira get a decent opportunity with a run of games in the first team. He is still developing and his end product leaves much to be desired, but the same could be said for the likes of Lallana, Coutinho and Firmino. None of these players have exactly shone in terms of providing goals and assists, and surely Teixeira deserves the chance to prove his worth. It is difficult to deduce why Teixeira has been continually overlooked, remaining on the fringes of the senior squad. Some have suggested it could be down to a lack of application in training, but there is little proof to support such claims. A loan move to a Premier League club (Bournemouth or Watford, perhaps?) could be the break he needs to show he has what it takes to play at this level on a consistent basis.
It would be a shame to see Teixeira let go in the summer- another promising talent failing to make the grade at Liverpool, following in the well-trodden footsteps of Dani Pacheco and Suso. Personally, I believe Teixeira has the quality to become at least a valuable squad player for Liverpool in years to come. Klopp has shown a willingness to give young players a chance, and whilst Teixeira is almost 23, different players develop at different rates. If he works hard to impress and takes the opportunities when they arise, there is still time for Teixeira to make the grade at Liverpool.