By Scott Taylor
Juanma and Nathaniel Phillips are set to sign for Liverpool U23s after a successful trial with Michael Beale’s side throughout their pre-season preparations. Juanma, 19, whose full name is Juan Manuel Garcia, can play at left-back or centre-back and was released from La Liga giants Barcelona, having played in their ‘B’ side last season. Phillips, 19, is also a centre-back and signs a two-year professional contract after leaving Bolton Wanderers in the summer and both are now set to be Liverpool players this season.
According to the Liverpool Echo, Juanma’s transfer will be subject to a medical and should he pass this, then he will feature for Beale’s U23s despite it being widely reported of the first-team’s lack of cover at left-back.
He featured in all four pre-season games for the Reds, but limped off in the 3-1 win at MK Dons on 1 August.
He will be the third youngster to make the switch from La Masia to Liverpool in recent seasons, following forwards Sergi Canos and Bobby Adekanye to Merseyside.
Despite moving to a new club in a country, Juanma will link up with some familiar faces, having represented Spain at U17 alongside Liverpool midfielders Pedro Chirivella and Madger Gomes.
Juanma made 17 appearances for Barcelona U19s in the UEFA Youth League, playing against teams such as Ajax, Arsenal and AS Roma.
He made his debut in September 2013 in the 4-1 win at Ajax and almost a year to the day, he scored his one and only goal in the competition, netting in a 3-0 victory at home to APOEL Nikosia.
He was made captain in six of his last seven games for Barcelona in the competition, starting at centre-back in all of those games.
In total, Juanma played just three of the 17 games as a left-back, with Barcelona preferring him to be a centre-back only to release him due to his physique and build.
Phillips is the son of former Bolton Wanderers footballer Jimmy, who is the coach at the Bolton Academy.
Phillips progressed from the U18s, where he featured against the Reds, to the then U21s, making his one and only appearance in April 2015, featuring in the 3-0 loss at Middlesborough.
Phillips, like Juanma, played in all four pre-season games for Liverpool and will go straight into the U23s side after centre-backs Daniel Cleary and Kristof Polgar moved to Birmingham City and Haladas respectively.
It is likely that Juanma will compete with Sam Hart for a place as a left-back whilst Phillips will do battle with Tom Brewitt, Corey Whelan and Joe Maguire for a place in the Reds defence.