Walk around the corner from Liverpool’s famed Anfield stadium, and you’ll find one of the city’s finest murals. Etched on the wall of one of the nearby terraced houses is a picture of Trent Alexander-Arnold, a local boy who has grown into hometown hero.
The three-story tall painting, commissioned by The Anfield Wrap (TAW) podcast, depicts Alexander-Arnold wearing a Liverpool jersey with the heartfelt quote he gave after winning the 2019 Champions League: “I’m just a normal lad from Liverpool whose dream has just come true.”
The words symbolize a boy living his dream, but the youngster has remained humble even after lifting Europe’s most coveted club trophy.
Next to Alexander-Arnold’s famed quote are the words: “For Fans Supporting Foodbanks.” TAW’s idea for the mural was two-fold – first, to celebrate their local hero’s role in the all-conquering European team and, second, to honor the support he gives the community.
Since bursting onto the global stage, the England international has been an active supporter of food banks which are trying to uplift impoverished communities in the city.
Having grown up in Merseyside, Alexander-Arnold is deeply entwined into the city’s fabric and a club which pushes social causes as part of its DNA.
Now, the flying defender is championing another cause, founding the After Academy in 2023 to help footballers who end up not making it as professionals and launching the first job opportunities in February 2024.
“The stories, you can relate to them because I was on that journey myself,” Alexander-Arnold told CNN Senior Sports Analyst Darren Lewis.
“I came through it. And I’m very fortunate and very blessed to be able to do that. But no, I’m still incredibly close to so many people who were not as fortunate as me and didn’t make it,” he said at the launch of the platform at Liverpool’s training center.
According to England’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), “over 99% of those who sign for an academy aged 9” do not make it professionally. The organization says Alexander-Arnold “is an academy success story, but he is the exception to the rule.”
It’s a privilege that Alexander-Arnold fully understands.
“Probably another aspect of it that I relate to, and that people don’t realize, is you then have an identity within your community, it’s almost like you wear it like a badge,” he said to CNN Sport.
“People hear and know that you train and play for Liverpool and it becomes who you are and defines you.
“When that gets stripped, you kind of don’t know who you are because you give absolutely everything and just sacrifice everything for it and then that’s stripped away. It’s almost like an identity crisis. The lads don’t know who they are.”
Alexander-Arnold added: “I’m fortunate because I look back and think every single sacrifice I made was completely worth it and that I’m one of very, very, very, very, very few players who have that privilege to say that.
“And everybody else that I played with, 15, 16 players every single season, who made the exact same sacrifices as me, probably don’t say it’s worth it. And how can that be fair?”
The After Academy’s goal is to provide practical help to players, and Alexander-Arnold is all too aware of the major issues.
“I’m aware of multiple [people] that have had those [suicidal] thoughts and feelings. It’s almost like your life’s over because that’s all you lived for,” he said, before warning about the dangers posed by falling into a world of crime after being dropped.
“A lot of us come from areas that are deprived and are filled with crime, and families are involved, and friends are at that age.
“When you come from an area where your cousins and friends are committing petty crimes and doing things just to make a quick buck, then you usually get sucked into it because what else do you know?”
To help the After Academy, Liverpool – along with Red Bull and Hugo Boss – have come on board as commercial partners, while the new After Academy jobs platform will be hosted on The PFA’s website, advertising positions solely for former academy players.
Alexander-Arnold says that former players have a lot of transferable skills because they know how to work in team environments, are highly disciplined, good communicators and committed individuals who can apply themselves when given the right opportunities.
The jobs on offer will not focus on traditional qualifications, but instead allow former players to showcase their skills and experiences.
“The jobs board is going to give opportunities and show that there is a bigger world than just being a player in football,” the Liverpool defender said.
“There’s a lot that goes into football that is not just about being a footballer. You can work within football in many different ways.”
This season, Alexander-Arnold and the Reds are still in the hunt for four possible trophies, as the squad looks to give its departing manager Jürgen Klopp a glorious send off after his nine years with the team.
The league title is arguably the trophy the club desires the most. Winning it would only serve to further immortalize Alexander-Arnold as one of Liverpool’s greats.
For all his success on the field, perhaps his greatest legacy will be off it, as this “normal lad from Liverpool” continues to do extraordinary things in wider society.
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com