Date: 28th August 2017 at 7:06pm
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Liverpool winger Ryan Kent`s long-term future is both interesting and unclear, but in the short-term it appears likely that he will be loaned out for the upcoming season.

Birmingham City have been named as one of several clubs, including Hull City and Derby County, interested in the 20-year-old, whose Anfield career is steadily approaching a crossroads.

Kent still has time on his side to realise his obvious potential – but if he is ever to cement himself a place in Liverpool`s senior then he is going to need to do so within the next couple of seasons, as his current contract expires in 2019.

Another season-long loan, following on from last season`s spell with Barnsley in the Championship, therefore seems the most sensible move for Kent and Liverpool.

But what would Harry Redknapp`s Blues get out of it were they to secure a season-long loan deal?

A positive, tricky and direct winger, Kent`s time with Barnsley last season proves a good barometer of his quality.

He made 47 appearances in all competitions for the Tykes, starting 38 of their 46 league games, but in over 3,000 minutes of football he returned just three goals and a single assist.

Even despite being voted the Tykes` Young Player of the Season, Kent divided opinion at Oakwell due to a lack of consistency and his substandard output.

For his obvious flair and fleet of foot in one-on-one situations against defenders, Kent`s end product for Barnsley was too often underwhelming. He could beat a man with relative ease, but then struggled in making the most of a position to get a shot away or find a team-mate inside the box.

For context, Barnsley scored 64 league goals last season. Only six of the Championship`s other 23 teams managed a better goal haul, all finishing above the 10th-placed Yorkshire outfit. And yet Kent only contributed directly towards four of those 64, despite featuring so regularly.

Of course it must be considered that there are instances in which Kent created a chance only for his team-mate to waste it, but even broadly speaking – for a player of his level, such numbers are disappointing at Championship level within a mid-table team.

Yet, ask any Barnsley supporter to evaluate his time at Oakwell and as much as they might touch upon the frustrations of Kent`s inconsistency, they will also say that the England youth international is clearly a player with talent.

The Oldham-born youngster`s ability was seen in flashes, the most obvious of which was his stunning strike on the turn against Leeds United, while six-second clips of his impressive dribbling have regularly appeared on social media.

Kent offers plenty of positives outside of just his speed and skill on the ball. He has a strong work ethic, excellent control with both feet, can spot and execute a pass and also has a strong highlight reel of sublime goals – just YouTube his efforts for Barnsley, Coventry and Liverpool`s under-23s.

Kent has plenty of attributes that promise a fruitful career, though there are areas of his game in need of improvement – something that will only come with the more football he plays.

His decision-making and consistency are the facets of his game most in need of attention. Were he to add a regularly dangerous final ball to his armoury, Kent could become a highly-effective attacker – particularly in the second division.

If his pre-season performances for Liverpool had been anything to go by, he would already be a back-up option for Jürgen Klopp`s first-team.

Last summer, Kent bagged three assists in clashes with Wigan and Fleetwood with clever, unselfish passes and contributed several bright performances – and he was lively again in Liverpool`s first pre-season friendly at Tranmere Rovers.

Helping to force the evening`s fourth goal with a typically skilful solo run, Kent jinked between two defenders down the left before slotting a through ball for Ben Woodburn to burst into the box, where he was brought down for a penalty that was successfully converted.

It was also Kent`s low cross that led to the third goal, though it arguably owed more to Dominic Solanke`s control and turn more than the ball into the striker`s itself. Kent`s square ball should have led to a fifth goal late on too, though Lazar Marković blazed over.

In just a 45-minute cameo, Kent served up a reminder that he undoubtedly has potential.

Kent took set-pieces off of his ‘weaker` left foot, though produced poor deliveries, and more regularly played off of his stronger right in open play, cutting inside from the left. That is where he played most of his games for Barnsley too, though he is capable of playing down the right as well.

Were he to sign for Birmingham, Kent would certainly pose a challenge to Jacques Maghoma and Cheick Keita down the left, but as well as on the right where he would provide stiff competition for Chelsea loanee Jeremie Boga and David Cotterill. He has played through the centre as a centre forward or as an attacking midfielder at youth level.

He was not one of the 22 to feature in preseason draw with Wigan Athletic, remaining an unused substitute, but did travel with Liverpool`s 25-man squad for Hong Kong to take part in the Premier League Asia Trophy.

Yet that by no means indicates that a loan move is off the cards, given Kent`s impressive form last year preceded a move to Barnsley.

With first-team wingers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, plus Sheyi Ojo and Harry Wilson also competing for a first-team place, a loan move for Kent is essentially inevitable even though he remains highly thought of on Merseyside.

This next season is one in which Kent needs regular football to further improve, enough to convince Jürgen Klopp that he can be a first-team asset, and a loan to Birmingham would seemingly be a good move for all involved.

The Blues will face competition for his signature, with Derby showing serious interest as well as a whole host of other clubs in the Championship.

Further, it would be naïve to expect Kent to transform the Blues` hopes of a return to the Premier League. He is far from the finished article, though has an abundance of promise.

But although he is raw, Kent possesses qualities that can make him a nightmare for any defender to go up against – and there are few Championship managers with better track records for developing potential than Redknapp – so it would be foolish to rule out the possibility of Kent being an excellent option for Birmingham if here to join.

We would like to thank Charlie for his in-depth insight as to what Ryan Kent could bring to Birmingham City. Be sure to check him out on Twitter @CharlieMalam

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