In the post-match thread after Porto, TTT subscriber Bathoz noted on the site:
It’s fascinating. Because based on earlier appearances, you’d say that Morton was behind Cain and Clarkson in the “young midfield metronome from LFC youth” stakes. Such that the prior two attracted loan interest and playing time down the leagues, and the third choice is in the Champions League. Madness.
Which led to me reply with the post below, as I examined the toe-in-the-water process, followed by loans or first-team squad establishment.
It's more age, and just the way the process works.
Clarkson and Cain are both 20, the same age as Curtis Jones. Morton just turned 19.
Clarkson got his minutes in Denmark last season. He's a bit too small to easily be a clear star player in England, and is not even getting off the bench for Blackburn these days. He's still a talent, but needs to get into their team to progress. Cain is on loan in the bottom tier, so he's not really a clear future prospect.
Morton – already taller – is simply doing what they did last season, and getting some game-time as a fringe player. But Morton may be able to take it further, given his better physique. He's fairly unique, as Madchen has discussed on here, in that he seems suited to the defensive midfield role at such a young age, when experience is usually vital to read, intercept and pass the ball quickly and accurately.
All that said, none of them would be playing at LFC if Keita, Ox, Thiago, Fabinho, Hendo, Jones, Elliott and Milner were all fit (and have I forgotten anyone?!). That's the key test: if they can overtake any of those guys, as Jones began to do last season. That's when they go from beyond the handy kids who are positioned behind the 25 senior players in the squad to force their way into the equation on a regular basis.
Morton will probably be out on loan next season, and then perhaps Luca Stephenson gets some minutes. If Morton does well on loan, he comes back a more senior player. If he doesn't, he may drift away, like Harry Wilson after his first loans. Then you have to see if they come strong again, aged 21 or 22, or get sold on. Wilson was always borderline, but his loans got better, and eventually raised a big transfer fee, as with Porto's Marko Grujic.
By the age of 23 it's usually clear (if they haven't asked to leave for regular football by then), albeit any sell-on will include a buyback, as the Reds have with Dominic Solanke (despite reports to the contrary), Ki-Jana Hoever, Rhian Brewster and several others. It’s club policy.
They've yet to trigger any buybacks, but at some point there'll be one of these guys who, at 25, is suddenly looking like a superstar.