JORDAN IBE has emerged as the man who could keep Brendan Rodgers in a job, if the under-fire Liverpool boss brings the young winger back from his loan term at Derby County.
Ibe (18) has been a revelation with the Rams this season and, back in October, Derby boss Steve McClaren raved: "He's one of them that at times can be unplayable. And he's only 18. Imagine when he grows and matures."
Against Chelsea last Tuesday night, Ibe gave another glimpse of his quality as he terrorised accomplished Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta in a stirring half-hour cameo which threatened to derail what had looked like being a comfortable League Cup stroll at Derby County's Pride Park.
Chelsea ultimately rode out the storm, but Ibe has impressed throughout his spell in the Championship, which begs the question - could he add something to Liverpool's lacklustre firepower in January?
Ibe has scored four goals in nine starts at Derby, although he has also made seven substitute appearances, and Liverpool are desperately lacking forward options with Daniel Sturridge and now Mario Balotelli injured, and Fabio Borini out in the cold.
Ibe was initally sent out on-loan for a full season to develop several aspects of his game and Rodgers would have to decide whether that development would be stunted if he was recalled early.
McClaren clearly believes the player would be better served staying where he is.
"The boy's learning, even in the weeks we've had him," he said.
"When he first came we gave Jordon a ball on his own and gave the team the other ball. Now he's learning to be a team player and developing into that. He's learning he needs end product to his game.
"We're developing him for Liverpool and in the meantime to help us win games. Liverpool know the players better than I do and think he needs development which I would totally agree with Brendan. There's still a long way to go. He's right at the beginning.
"He's learning from the very beginning. He's an impact for us. It's up to him how good he wants to be and up to Liverpool, but we can just develop him for Liverpool and get good habits into him."