Andre Wisdom looking dejected at RB Salzburg
Andre Wisdom had played almost 20 games for the Liverpool first team before celebrating his 20th birthday and has been capped by England from under-16 up to under-21 level. He is clearly a talented footballer, and that was reflected in the level of interest shown in him when the Reds made him available for loan this summer.
Having already had a loan move to the Championship with Derby, followed by two temporary stints in the Premier League with Norwich and West Brom, some were surprised to see Wisdom venture a little further afield, heading north of the Alps to the historic city of Salzburg, becoming the only Englishman currently playing his trade in the Austrian Bundesliga in the process.
On the face of it, it was a good move. English players are often criticised for their reluctancy to escape the home comforts of the Premier League and Football League, and the likes of Joe Hart, Osayamen Osawe and Andre Wisdom plunging into the unknown and honing their craft on the continent is widely considered a 'good' thing.
This was the general feeling an consensus regarding Wisdom's season-long loan to RB Salzburg too, but as is so often the case, the situation is a little more complex. Wisdom is a rare breed in the modern game - a defensive full-back. So often we see full-backs now more comfortable on the ball breaking at pace than when tracking back. In this sense, Wisdom is something of a throwback.
Whilst the trend of English right-backs in recent years; Kyle Walker, Nathaniel Clyne, Glen Johnson, etc, all seem to have fallen into this category, Wisdom does not. The 23-year-old is not blessed with blistering pace, a wicked cross or fine dribbling abilities, but when it comes to the old school full-back skills; marking, tackling and preventing balls coming into the box, Wisdom is very adept.
It would be unfair to label Wisdom simply a kick it and head it type defender, but it is certainly true that his finest attributes are off the ball rather than on it. And that should have been the first indicator that a move to Salzburg may not have been the most suitable.
Andre Wisdom during his loan spell at Derby County
RB Salzburg have won the last three Austrian Bundesliga's and won the title in 7 of the last 10 seasons overall. Their dominance in Austria is telling, often winning the league with ease in recent seasons and typically dominating teams on a routine basis.
It is for that reason that a defence-minded full-back who offers little on the ball is understandably currently being overlooked in the RB Salzburg team. The 1994 UEFA Cup finalists have played 26 games in all competitions already this season, of which Wisdom has featured in only 6, and he hasn't started a single league game.
Naturally, in the Europa League, where Salzburg come up against more formidable opposition than their domestic rivals, they see less of the ball and spend more time on the back foot; conditions perfect for a man who is defensively very sound such as Wisdom. In fact, every one of Wisdom's 4 Salzburg starts have come against either Krasnodar or Nice in the Europa League.
RB Salzburg are currently 3rd in their Europa League group
In those games, the defender has put in steady displays, but nothing to convince Oscar Garcia that he is worthy of a starting spot in the Red Bull's regular team. This is unlikely to change anytime soon, and a great waste of a talented full-back who, at the age of 23, really needs to be getting regular game time, not making up the numbers in a relatively weak Austrian league.
There are a handful of Premier League teams that Wisdom would walk straight into. Yet if testing himself and growing as a player in unfamiliar territory was what Liverpool or Wisdom wanted, then a bottom half Bundesliga team would have welcomed him with open arms, and offered him the perfect opportunity to grow as a player in a much more testing league. The likes of Ingolstadt and Darmstadt all play games far more suited to Wisdom's style than Salzburg.
Perhaps the plan was for Wisdom to improve on his offensive abilities in a team where he would be afforded more time on the ball and more scope to attack, playing on the stronger side virtually week in and week out. Of course, that plan would only work if he was actually playing, and if Liverpool or Wisdom thought his pedigree alone would be enough to ensure that, they were wrong.
Wisdom will have a hard time dislodging Nathaniel Clyne at Liverpool
Approaching the half way point in the Austrian Bundesliga season, the only way Wisdom is likely to get extended game time at Salzburg is if regular right-back Stefan Lainer were to pick up a long term injury or if a handful of the Red Bull's centre-backs were to be sidelined.
Oscar Garcia has tried playing Wisdom as a centre-back, and with some success, due to the players obvious defensive qualities, but he has ultimately opted for Salzburg's own defensive prospects such as 20-year-old Duje Caleta-Car, rather than focussing his efforts on developing the game of a player who will only be at the Red Bull Arena until the end of the season.
Frankly, Wisdom's loan move to Salzburg looks to have been ill-judged and one. Austria has not proved a testing and productive environment for Wisdom to grow his game, but rather an unsuitable one where he has been restricted to very little game which could prove detrimental to his development as a player.
Andre Wisdom playing for England U21's