Stefan Bajcetic plays first game in 6 months – but not in Liverpool role

After an impressive run of starts for Liverpools first team in the second half of last season, Bajcetic saw an adductor injury end his campaign early.

His layoff ate into pre-season, too, with the 18-year-old unable to feature in any of the Reds warmup friendlies in Germany, Singapore and the UK.

But Bajcetic has made the bench for the last three games in the Premier League, with his fitness enough to earn him a call-up to Spains U21s squad this month.

Friday evening saw Spain visit Malta in their Euro qualifier, and manager Santi Denia saw it as an opportunity to integrate Bajcetic.

Coming off the bench with 25 minutes to play in a 6-0 win, it was not only Bajcetics debut for Spain U21s, but also his first game at any level since Liverpools 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth in March.

He replaced Rafa Marin with Spain already four goals ahead, and did so at centre-back, rather than his normal midfield role.

It came after Denia told AS that he sees Liverpools No. 43 emulating Valencias Hugo Guillamon, who he had previously used in both defence and midfield.

When he played in the youth teams, he played centre-back. I think he can give us alternatives in that position, Denia explained.

It may be like Guillamon in the previous generation, that he can occupy several positions. I have spoken with him and he agrees with that role.

As Denia noted, it was not the first time Bajcetic had played centre-back, having arrived on Merseyside in 2020 as a natural in that role.

But the decision was soon made to move the teenager further up the pitch than he had been used to at Celta Vigo, and he is now considered capable as both No. 6 and No. 8.

His versatility will undoubtedly be useful in years to come, with there even a prospect of him filling in with the playmaking right-back role enjoyed by Trent Alexander-Arnold.

For now, the main positive is his return from injury, with another chance to feature on Monday when Spain host Ben Doaks Scotland.