Liverpool are hopeful they can unearth new talent after opening their first academy away from Merseyside.

The Reds launched a new academy in Belfast earlier this week, which will get into full swing in January and not only does it gives youngsters a chance to get first-class coaching, but it provides Liverpool with the opportunity to keep a close eye on emerging Northern Irish talent.

Although Northern Ireland has hardly been a hot-bed for footballing talent in recent times, arguably the greatest footballer ever to grace the British game came from Belfast – and Liverpool are now intent they won’t be beaten to the next George Best by bitter rivals Manchester United.

"Unfortunately the best player to come out of Northern Ireland, George Best, ended up at Manchester United - we have to make sure that doesn't happen again, but it shows that football is in the blood in Northern Ireland," said Anfield legend Ian Rush at the launch of the Liverpool FC Football Academy.

"There are a lot of Manchester United supporters in Northern Ireland and there have been a few Northern Ireland players at United recently. Hopefully our football schools will see more kids from here go to Liverpool.

"There's a great fan base of Liverpool supporters in Northern Ireland and the Liverpool Football Academy will help connect the supporters with the club even further,

"Liverpool and Manchester United are, for me, the two best supported clubs in the world. And it's great to see so many supporters of both clubs here in Northern Ireland."

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