JAMAL Lewis should grab the opportunity to move to newly-crowned Premier League champions Liverpool with both hands, according to Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough.
The Reds are understood to have made a £10m bid for the 22-year-old, with relegated Norwich valuing the speedy left-back at closer to double that amount.
He would face stiff opposition for a starting spot should he eventually secure a move to Anfield, with Lewis likely to be viewed as back-up for regular Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson.
Despite that challenge, Baraclough still believes it is a move that would take Lewis – who has won 13 caps since making his debut for Northern Ireland in 2018 - to “the next level”.
“I’ve spoken to two or three people about the proposed move. There have been differing opinions,” said Baraclough, who took over the reins from Michael O’Neill back in June
“As a player, I’d be saying ‘where’s the contract, I want to sign it’ Why wouldn’t you want to go to the European champions, the Premier League champions and the World Club champions?
“Some people might say you won’t get as much game time, but if you’re training day in, day out, with Jurgen Klopp and the calibre of players he’d be working with, you’re going to improve as a player and it would take him to the next level.
“It would be up to him to knuckle down, if that move happens, and make sure he’s at the forefront of the manager’s thoughts. The amount of games they play, and the way they rotate players now, he’d certainly get game time and I certainly think it would bring him on as a player.
“And for me, as the national manager, I can see that as a step up and another player in the Premier League after Norwich unfortunately dropped out of the Premier League.”
Baraclough has some experience of seeing Lewis at close quarters too, having worked with him at Northern Ireland U21 level, and admits he isn’t surprised to see him linked to such a big club.
“No - he’s got all the attributes, he’s a level-headed kid and he’s one that wants to improve.
“You’ll find him in the gym before training and after training and he’s probably one of those kids, having worked with him for a little bit of time, you have to keep the reins on a bit so he doesn’t do too much.
“He wants to question you about how he can improve and I love players like that. I love players who invest time in themselves and don’t just settle for what they’ve got.
“He’s got a captain in Stephen Davis who has been like that his entire career. Who better to have than ‘Davo’ and Jonny Evans - they are not there by luck or by chance, they are there for a reason and they have worked at it day in, day out and never rested on their laurels.
“To have senior players like that within the group to look up to and strive to be as good as them and as consistent as them… you have to be at that levels day in, day out.”
Baraclough’s first game in charge of Northern Ireland will be the Uefa Nations League clash with Romania four weeks from today.
And he has no concerns about whether or not that fixture will go ahead as his side builds towards their Euro 2021 play-off showdown with Bosnia & Herzegovina in Zenica on October 8.
“We’re all focused on September 4 [against Romania] and September 7 [home to Norway]. Until we’re told otherwise, we’re intending to fly to Romania having prepared in Belfast. Hopefully everything’s safe.
“The Northern Ireland Executive has allowed us to go into Romania, stay in our own bubble, play the game and come out that night.
“To get a feel of the job properly, you want to be with the players, you want to be with the staff, you want to be working with them on the pitch and working towards a game. Some of them wouldn’t have kicked a ball since March, so those are the challenges we’ve got and we’ve got to deal with them.”