There is one major difference between Jordon Ibe and another dazzling young winger whom Liverpool would love to sign a new contract.
Whereas Raheem Sterling has seen his reputation damaged by the public nature of negotiations, Ibe doesn’t countenance handing over power to an outside agent. Instead, his mum and dad, Charlet and Michael, handle every aspect of his career including current ongoing contract talks.
“My parents are sorting that out with the club. Hopefully everything will just get sorted by the end of the season,’ said 19-year-old Ibe, who has a year left on his present deal but is seen by manager Brendan Rodgers as an integral part of the club’s long-term future.
“I don’t believe in having an agent. I don’t really see the need for one to be fair. My parents do the same job and they are my family which is number one to me. I can trust them and they are the best people.
“It’s not that I have had a bad experience with agents. It is just my opinion, I don’t see what they can do that my family can’t. With regards with Nike and stuff like that, they have come to me at times and if I need help, then I’d get my parents to sort it out.’
Liverpool will be as keen as Ibe to sort terms out sooner rather than later. Having initially turned down a move to Anfield at 14, the Londoner eventually moved to the North West soon after his 16th birthday, following in the footsteps of his dad’s hero, John Barnes.
Having spent the first half of the season excelling on loan at Derby County — Rams fans believe his return to Anfield in January cost them promotion — he has become a key part of Liverpool’s strong second half of the season, and was man of the match in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park.
“The coach spoke to me on the phone two weeks prior to me coming back and said the way the team was playing would give me the chance to fit in as a wing-back,” he said.
“He told me I’d start training and hopefully get in and start playing games. I slightly doubted it and spoke to my parents but we just came to the view that if the coach said I have to come back, then I have to.
“I can’t say no. But he has come through and delivered and I am grateful for that. I’ve been given the chance to play.”
The breakthrough came against Everton in February. “I only found out I was playing against Everton on the Friday evening,” said Ibe.
“We were doing formations and the manager read out the starting 11 with my name in it. I was a bit confused! We went through some set-pieces and I was a bit nervous to be fair but in the game I was fine, I enjoyed it.”
Ibe was denied a winner by the woodwork and since then has featured more often than Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert.
Ibe hopes Liverpool can bring through its own version of the Class of ’92, the homegrown Manchester United stars who led that club to so much success.
“Raheem has already established himself, I’m trying to come through and there are other players like Cam (Cameron) Brannagan, Jordan Rossiter, Jerome Sinclair and Joao (Teixeira). Maybe we can emulate United. The coach is prepared to work with young players.
“Jordan is proving himself and has already scored in the first team (v Middlesbrough). Others are training with us most days and doing well. Joao did superbly on loan at Brighton before breaking his leg. It’ll be good to see him come back and for us to play together.”
At 15, Ibe scored his first senior goal for Wycombe and went to school the following Monday where his science lesson at Year 11 of Sacred Heart secondary in Camberwell was interrupted so the whole class could see his magic moment on BBC iPlayer. Ironically, Ibe was booked for running over to celebrate with his mum.
His family are up on Merseyside with him now. Rodgers has praised the England under-20 international’s ‘big talent’ and frequently reminded those who listen that Sterling is not the only young gem at the club. Although a new deal is yet unsigned, Ibe is not talking like someone who thinks he will be leaving Anfield.
“If Champions League qualification is not for us this season, there’s always next season, for us to prove ourselves and get back to how we nearly won the Premier League,” he says.
Ibe has the pace, skills and strength reminiscent of Barnes. As Liverpool prepares for the end of the Steven Gerrard era, just two weeks away, his long-term commitment is vital, agent or no agent.