The start of the Jurgen Klopp era at Liverpool presented every player with a new dawn.
After the exit of Brendan Rodgers, the German set out to hand as many players as possible opportunities to see what they were made of. And the Europa League was the perfect stage for Klopp to give players valuable minutes on the pitch as he set about taking a closer look at the players he’d inherited.
A trip to Rubin Kazan offered Klopp that opportunity, and a 1-0 victory was secured in Russia, with Jordon Ibe scoring the winning goal.
At the age of 19, it was the first goal that Ibe had scored for Liverpool a little under four years after he moved to the club from Wycombe Wanderers. The Reds had brought him to Anfield as a 16-year-old, with his talent being identified early on after making seven appearances for Wycombe Wanderers.
His goal against Rubin Kazan came after a driving run through the opposition defence, before firing his effort into the bottom corner. It was enough for Liverpool to win the game, and Klopp could not hide his delight at full-time.
Soon after the final whistle, Klopp ran onto the pitch to greet Ibe. As he met the Reds No.33, Klopp could be heard by the camera shouting “Ibeeee” before giving the player a hug, as he expressed his happiness with the forward’s first goal for the club.
Klopp explained after the match how he had high hopes for Ibe’s career going forward. But even then, he did offer a warning to the player.
“He is a good lad and a big talent, a very skilled player,” said Klopp, while praising Ibe in November 2015, after the win over Rubin Kazan.
“He has a really good base and he feels good at this moment but he has to work on things and he has a lot to learn. If he is prepared for this then everything will be good.”
That strike in Russia would be one of four goals that Ibe would score that season, and indeed for his entire career at the club. He would net twice in the League Cup, as well as one more on the final day against West Brom in the Premier League.
His two strikes in the League Cup came in the quarter-final and semi-final, respectively. The goals would help the Reds reach the final against Manchester City in February 2016, which Liverpool lost on penalties.
Ibe did not feature that day at Wembley Stadium, and a little over a month later there would be reports of him apparently falling out with Klopp. After featuring heavily in the German’s first few months in the job, his outings gradually decreased as the season went on.
After Liverpool beat Bournemouth in April 2016, where Ibe got an assist for a Daniel Sturridge goal, Klopp even addressed these rumours. It was something he, as expected, denied and reiterated his stance on praising the talent at the forward’s disposal.
“I heard from somewhere that Jordon has some problems with me or something?” Klopp said. “Only a few young players can come up and sometimes they are in the squad, sometimes not.
“He’s still a brilliant, big talent which is very good for English football. He did well with the pass for the first goal, and the cross for the second. I was very happy. It was a beautiful pass from Jordon Ibe [for Sturridge’s goal]. We had a lot of moments and it’s absolutely exciting.”
Just a few months later, though, Ibe’s career at Liverpool would come to an end. The Reds accepted a £15million bid from Bournemouth, with left-back Brad Smith also heading to the south coast in an £8m deal.
Liverpool did have a buy-back clause for Ibe, with Klopp keen to stress that the player still had the opportunity to have a future with the Reds, should he impress for the Cherries
“Things like this are usually really expensive but these aren’t,” Klopp told the ECHO in August 2016. “Yes, there’s a bit of a risk. It’s not that you can sell someone for £10m with a buy-back clause of £8m. That would be fantastic!
“The difference between loaning a player and selling a player isn’t so great.
“Of course you get a fee when you sell a player. But in both situations you think they are old enough and ready to play but in that moment they don’t have a fixed position in your team.
“At that age you have to play and that was the case with Brad Smith and Jordon Ibe. They had the possibility to do that (with Bournemouth) and they were deals that absolutely made sense for both sides.
“We will watch them, they will have pressure there, they will fight for the league or whatever, and we will see them growing up in pressure situations. That’s perfect.
“If a player is on loan it’s different. It’s like going on holiday. You can always go home. That’s difficult for these guys as they are always between clubs.
“Now Smith and Ibe are there and we have buy-back clauses. Hopefully they do really well and then in the end we and them will decide.
“The goodbyes were okay with both of them. Liverpool is still in their hearts so we will have a chance if they do well.”
Ibe was set for a new chapter with Bournemouth. After having the young prospect tag at Liverpool, he was now burdened with a sizable price tag and expected to prove himself.
As it turned out, Liverpool would not exercise the option of buying Ibe back from Bournemouth. Four years at the Cherries saw Ibe score just five goals in 92 appearances. He would eventually leave the club in the summer of 2020 on a free transfer.
His next step would be to move to Championship club Derby County in September 2020. Ibe had already had experience with the Rams, having spent the first half of the 2014/15 season on loan at Pride Park from Liverpool.
But just a few months into his time in the East Midlands, Ibe would open up on his struggles with his mental health. January 2021 saw the former Red open up about his struggles with depression, which had kept him out of playing.
“I want to apologise to all my fans around the world,” Ibe wrote on Instagram in January 2021. “I’ve find (sic) myself in a dark place, due to suffering with depression.
“It’s no scheme for the media or to have my name in your mouths, I just find things hard truly.
“I appreciate all the love and messages from everyone. Times are hard in general due to this pandemic.
“I have the full support from my family and Derby County football club.
“I will fix myself and this situation, which I’m 100 per cent committed to. Not only for my family, close friends or my beauteous daughter but for me.”
He made just one appearance for Derby in the 2020/21 season, before having his contract cancelled by mutual consent in the summer of 2021. Ibe would be without a club for several months before signing for a new club.
Months later, Ibe would talk further about his social media post where he talked about his mental health struggles.
Ibe told Sportbible in November 2021: “It was the darkest time of my life.
“It was a cry for help, to be honest. I felt like I needed to speak out because if not, I don’t know what else could have happened.
“It’s a good thing that I did.
“I’m not trying to make people feel sorry for me.
“I feel like it was very important that I spoke openly and to my family about it because you don’t know what can come from mental health. I’ve been going through depression for the last four years.”
January of this year saw Ibe finally sign for a new club. This time, he moved abroad to sign for Turkish second division club Adanaspor.
However, he would make no appearances and left the club earlier this summer. His last competitive appearance remains a cameo coming off the bench in the 87th minute for Derby against Stoke City in December 2020.