It’s pretty rare to find a 20-year-old in any field who you can describe as established, but having made his professional debut when he was just 15-years-old, it already feels like Jordon Ibe has proven himself as a Premier League talent with real staying power.
The energetic Liverpool winger has become a firm favourite under Jurgen Klopp’s new look Merseysiders, with the German’s high-pressure game favouring a player of Ibe’s pace and power. Following in the steps of Raheem Sterling and his blood brother Daniel Sturridge, Ibe is already becoming the Kop’s latest fledgling hero.
Away from the pitch – as his Instagram tells us – Jordon Ibe is pretty much like any other 20-year-old. He spoke to Complex about his status as Anfield’s biggest hip-hop head, his Air Force 1 obsession and his unbreakable bond with Daniel Sturridge.
Interview: Corey Pellatt
We're days away from a Europa League clash with Manchester United. What’s the vibe like around Liverpool when a big game is on the horizon?
No one has spoken about it much, we’re just try to work hard in training and prepare mentally for the game. I’m a young player in the team – I’ve only just turned 20 – so to be in with a chance of getting medals at my age is superb. We just try to take every game as it comes.
If you ever look on Twitter, you’ll know that Jurgen Klopp is as close to being universally loved as any manager could be. What’s he really like?
He’s a great guy and he’s been like a father figure, you know. He has that type of relationship with every player in the team, whether you’re playing or not. It gives everyone in the team confidence and as you can see on the pitch, it’s starting to work great. It needs to continue.
He's famously into 'heavy metal' – have you played him anything from your playlist yet?
Nah! I don’t think he’d be into my sort of music and I don’t like heavy metal so we’ll leave it at that.
You made your pro debut at only 15-years-old, what was going through your mind that day?
It was great, it was shocking to be fair because I wasn’t expecting it – everything just came quick. During pre-season that year, I was expecting another regular season at Wycombe – just training with the first team and making a few appearances in friendlies here and there. Going into the season I was given my chance and it came out of nowhere, I was still at school, so I enjoyed it and I was lucky to have loads of support from other players, my family and my friends.
What do you think it was like for your friends at school to see your career taking off while they’re still thinking about GCSEs?
It was crazy for me, to be fair! I’d be playing at the weekend and then I’d come home to be with my friends and just chill, probably go the cinema or whatever on a Saturday night. It was weird but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Did you still play football with your mates at school during that time, too?
Yeah, definitely. I wanted to play, I always loved to play football. Even when I was at Wycombe I think there was a few times where I still played for my school team. I’d play on the Tuesday and then have a first team game on a Saturday, which the Wycombe manager never really knew about.
Moving from Wycombe to Liverpool is a pretty big leap, were you nervous on your first day at your new club?
It was great. I can’t actually remember the day but my first few times going there was amazing, seeing all these big figures; Gerrard, Pepe Reina, Suarez. There were loads of big players in the team and it was great to get my chance to play with them and train with them.
Did you ever get star struck in those early days?
I thought I would but I didn’t. I was nervous playing with these guys and I didn’t want to look silly but I enjoyed it. It was great watching them in training because they’re fantastic players, some of whom are playing at the biggest clubs in the world and others who had won loads of medals.
Who was the player that made you want to 'pinch yourself' when you played alongside him for the first time?
Gerrard, everyone wants to play with Gerrard – but playing in my position – it was great to play with Sturridge. He’s a top player.
You're only 20 but considering you made your debut five years ago now, do you ever feel like a veteran?
To be fair, a lot of people say that because I’ve been playing five years now. I don’t really feel like that, though. I’ve still got so much to do in my career but it was great to start off young because I’ve learned stuff and gained early experience.
Do you feel like you’re able to pass on some of that wisdom to other players ready to break through?
Yeah, definitely because there’s a lot of players, especially in the area of London where I used to live, in League One or Two teams, that want to progress to the next level. These guys are 15 of 16-years-old so I tell them to just keep going and impress where you can. There will always be Championship and Premier League clubs watching you at that level so when your chance comes you’ve got to take it.
Your Instagram has a very cool aesthetic…
Gheeze! The type of pictures I put up are just chilled pictures, that’s my vibe. I think some people would like to see me put more football pictures up but Instagram’s fun, I want to throw up stuff of me and my boys just chilling.
Is style a big part of your life? You’re always wearing something new on there.
Yeah, fashion is cool. I like a lot of brands. Everyone calls it swag these days and everyone wants to have the best swag, I just try to keep myself up there looking nice and if that happens it’ll go on Instagram.
What's your footwear game like?
I love Air Force 1s, especially the high tops. Before it used to be Jordans but right now I’m on Air Forces. Nike have also got Air Max, which is cool for me, I’m a regular at Niketown.
You and Daniel Sturridge seem pretty tight – have you got Liverpool's biggest bromance?
Most probably (laughs). He likes the same stuff as me with fashion and music, and he gives me a lot of advice. We talk about stuff off the pitch and on it and it’s cool to have someone to hang out with when we’ve got time off. We might go down to London occasionally, stuff like that.
One of the best things I've seen any football club do on YouTube is the hip-hop quiz between you and Sturridge…
That wasn’t cool! That music in the quiz was from his time, I’m not going to know! We need to do it again on this music from the last ten years, then we’ll see who’ll win for real.
So who are the artists of your time?
I like Party, he’s a cool guy and I like his music. Obviously the most common one everyone knows about would be Drizzy Drake. There’s Tory Lanez and Future, too. PartyNextDoor is my guy, though.
Are there many other hip-hop heads in your dressing room?
Me and Studge the most. Origi, Clyne and Benteke listen to hip-hop and they know a bit but mostly it’s us two.
Are you feeling the grime revival too?
The music is good and Krept and Konan are the best from the UK, if you ask me. I rate Section Boyz too, I like some of their songs.
How do you want to end this season, what are your aims?
Just to get a few more goals and wrap up this season with a medal. We’ve got a great chance in the Europa League. If we win that we’re in the Champions League – that’s where all players want to be.
Jordon Ibe wears Nike Tech Knit and Nike Air Force 1 Ultra Flyknit available now at nike.com.