Jordan Henderson (31), James Milner (36) and Thiago (30) are all on the wrong side of thirty. Fabinho (28) and Naby Keïta (27) have reached their peaks but only have a few more years at this level. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain (28) is similarly aged but is slowly becoming one of football’s forgotten men. Liverpool has arguably the most industrious midfield in the Premier League, allowing their full-backs and wingers to flourish in the final third by doing their dirty work for them, but they cannot escape one infallible enemy. This Liverpool squad that has thrilled us for the past five years is slowly falling prey to Father Time and Klopp must enter his final stage of evolution for the future to cement his legacy as the Reds’ greatest ever manager. He has already started this process through shrewd recruitment (the likes of Diogo Jota, Ibrahima Konate and Luis Diaz should be Liverpool regulars in the years to come) and internal development (Caomhin Kelleher, Neco Williams and Curtis Jones are all academy products that have seamlessly eased into the first team), and in addition to Trent Alexander Arnold – 24 and one of the best right-backs in the world – the Liverpool squad seems to have a reasonable sense of security for the future. Klopp’s biggest hope, however, lies with what many would consider has the potential to become the biggest bargains in Premier League history.
In 2019, Liverpool signed teenager Harvey Elliott for a fee of 1.5 million pounds. The deal was at the time a record transfer fee for a 16-year-old (it has since been broken by the signing of Madrid’s Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior) but raised eyebrows across the footballing world. After all, Elliott had only played two professional football matches for Fulham after being fast-tracked through the age levels in their academy. The second of these games involved him becoming the youngest ever player to play in a Premier League match at just 16 years and 30 days. It was a significant investment in a player that had not proven himself at the top level despite clearly being deemed talented enough to play for a Premier League club.
Nevertheless, his talent and prowess had impressed Klopp and then sporting director Michael Edwards enough to make Elliott the first major forward-looking signing of Klopp’s tenure. Elliott was gradually given opportunities in his first season at Liverpool, including a Premier League debut for the Reds against Sheffield United at Anfield and a regular role in their EFL Cup run (where he became the youngest Liverpool player to start a match). His two league appearances enabled him to taste silverware for the first time in his career as the Reds went on to win their long-awaited Premier League title.
Elliott’s biggest statement on his ability as a footballer came during his loan spell at Blackburn Rovers, where he impressed the English footballing fraternity by giving them a mere glimpse of his astronomical potential. With the signings of Jota, Minamino and Thiago, Klopp realised that Elliott would get fewer opportunities in both of his potential positions and decided to loan him out to a side where he would be given a regular run in the starting lineup (ironically, this move would prove to be extremely costly, as Liverpool’s makeshift centre back pairing of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson meant that they suffered a shortage in central midfield).
Under the tutelage of the experienced Tony Mowbray, Elliott began to shine for the Rovers, making 41 appearances and notching 7 goals and 11 assists in his breakthrough season. Elliott’s partnership with Adam Armstrong allowed the latter to become the second-highest scorer in the championship and Elliott finished third in the championship assists charts for the season with an impressive tally of 11, behind Michael Olise and Emiliano Buendia – both of whom are now playing in the Premier League for Palace and Villa respectively. His performances cemented him as a Blackburn regular, where he primarily played as a left-winger and wreaked havoc on championship defences.
Elliott’s biggest asset is undoubtedly his versatility. While it is common to see forwards playing across the front three, Elliott offers the unique ability to fill in at both central midfield and on the wings with a high degree of proficiency. While he played mainly as a winger for Mowbray’s Blackburn, Klopp tends to prefer Elliot as a central midfielder at Liverpool, playing to the right of Fabinho in midfield. Whether this is due to his high quality and number of options in the final third is debatable, but Elliott has proven himself more than capable of filling in either spot when called upon.
His small build allows him to flourish in tight spaces and his composure on the ball allows him to link up play in a smart manner between the defence and attack. Elliott’s passing under pressure is an aspect that particularly stands out, with his performances surprisingly error-free for a footballer of his age. His attacking repertoire is best embodied by his two performances against Birmingham City in the 2020-21 Championship. In Blackburn’s 2-0 win, he delivered a fantastic assist for their second – an incisive pass that pierced through the Birmingham defence and in the final game of the season against the same opposition he showed his goalscoring capabilities by finishing with a Salah-Esque dink over the goalkeeper in a thumping 5-2 win. Another striking characteristic of Elliott’s character is his passion. A childhood Liverpool fan, Harvey Elliott has always worn his heart on his sleeve, which shows in his performances as he is unafraid to get stuck into challenges and fight for the ball.
Elliott started this season promisingly but suffered a major setback after Pascal Struijk’s horror tackle left him sidelined for over five months. While this may have been enough to demoralise even the most experienced of footballers, the youngster impressed everyone with his will to return stronger and even showed his character by offering condolences to Struijk – who was visibly distraught after unintentionally inflicting such severe damage on Elliott. His return at Cardiff City in a 3-1 win in February was a smashing success, as he crowned an impressive substitute appearance with his first-ever goal for Liverpool – a well-taken volley after a sublime first touch. A month later, he was rewarded for his efforts with a starting spot in Liverpool’s round of 16 first leg against Inter Milan at the San Siro, a crucial encounter against one of Europe’s greatest football teams. Klopp clearly trusts him and so do his teammates, with Harvey Elliot tbecoming a regular member of the Liverpool matchday squad at the tender age of eighteen.
It was telling that Elliott was the first to barge into the scuffle between Trent Alexander Arnold and Kai Havertz in the recently held Carabao Cup final at Wembley. His youthful exuberance and passion make him a liability and sometimes cause rash decision making but give him an edge that can prove to be the difference in the biggest games. Klopp trusted the youngster with the role of an impact sub in one of the biggest domestic games of the season, and Elliott did not disappoint with his feisty performance in central midfield. He was also one of the eleven penalty takers and calmly dispatched his penalty during the sudden death shootout between Liverpool and Chelsea, which ended in Liverpool’s first piece of silverware for the 21-22 season. Passion, bags of talent and composure when it matters – Harvey Elliott is definitely the future of Liverpool F.C and is slowly becoming the present. With his outstanding potential, the sky’s the limit.
Written by Hrishikesh Chaudhuri | Feature Image via This is Anfield
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