Harvey Elliott: Liverpool's Little Diamond Who Has a Big Role to Play at Anfield

It's the summer of 2019, and you have the world at your feet. You've just become the youngest player in Premier League history, and having just left Fulham on a free transfer, you can take your pick of Europe's elite.

You have a list of offers longer than your arm; Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and virtually every major club in England have expressed an interest.

Los Blancos have tabled one of the more serious offers; they're so keen on securing your services, in fact, that they have offered you the chance to meet club captain Sergio Ramos, clearly believing that you - a 16-year-old with next to no senior experience - will be so starstruck that you will have no choice but to sign there and then.

So what do you say when the 13-time European champions, and one of the biggest institutions in sport, make such a life-changing proposition?

"No, it's OK, thanks."

You're Harvey Elliott, and in one remark, casually polite, yet dripping in disarming, self-assured swagger. you have announced your intentions to the world.

It was a decision made, Elliott says, out of loyalty to the club he supports. He'd watched Real's pantomime villain injure Mohamed Salah in the Champions League final a year earlier, putting the Egyptian's World Cup at risk and ultimately contributing to a heartbreaking defeat for Liverpool in Kiev.

As he flagrantly thumbed his nose at one of the great sporting institutions, gambling with his own career for the sake of his morals, it was the first major sign of an unnatural, unerring confidence in his own abilities.

It might have been naive and against everything his advisors were telling him at the time, but shortly after telling a contingent from Madrid where to go, Elliott's confidence in himself was repaid. Within three months, he had made his senior Liverpool debut.

It came in a 2-0 League Cup victory at MK Dons back in August, and there was a truly special quality to the level of performance he delivered. Steven Gerrard was 18 years and five months old when he made his Liverpool bow, but here was Elliott - closer to his 16th birthday than his 17th - running the show as if he had been here for years.

Watching him, boy-bun and all, as he lasted the 90 minutes despite the best efforts of Dons' Joe Walsh and Brennan Dickenson, there was an air of composure and measured entitlement to his game. He knew he belonged, and that, accompanied by his evident creative intelligence and ability on the ball, was a frightening prospect.

Still in his mid-teens, he was never going to build on that performance by unseating Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mané from the starting XI, but the frequency with which he has since been deployed as a first-team player suggests that the faith he has in his own abilities is echoed elsewhere.

He's made a further six first-team appearances, and his energy and vibrancy - both in ability and personality - have generated a clamour to see him included more often.

That may seem a little over-the-top for such a young player, but he has almost transcended youth level already. He made a mockery of the UEFA Youth League in his debut campaign, scoring or assisting in six of the young Reds' seven matches. When he has been used in Premier League 2 - making an intermittent 11 starts due to his senior duties - he's managed two goals and four assists.

The startling strides forward he has made in his first year at Anfield suggest there is only room for an upward trajectory, and with the Reds seemingly set for another summer of cautious spending - the prospect of Timo Werner grows less likely by the day - you wonder if it might already be time to pull the trigger.

None of this is to say Elliott is certainly ready to be thrust into a role as Mohamed Salah's understudy, but it's often unclear just how prepared a young player is until they've been left in the deep end with no rubber ring to cling onto.

Jadon Sancho came highly-rated when he arrived at Dortmund, but few would ever have predicted that within a couple of years, he'd be hitting 20 goals and 20 assists with weeks of the season to spare.

For Elliott, it's all there. He has a manager who trusts him and has a clear plan in place for his development. He has ability and confidence in himself; he even has the unprecedented opportunity of a dead-rubber end to the season, in which he can be gradually introduced to league football with the pressure off.

In theory, it's a perfect storm. Rarely has a young player had such a clear pathway into such an impressive and formidable first-team, and rarely does a young player have the talent to take advantage of it. Yet here we are with both boxes checked.

Then again, this is a young player with the gall to laugh in the face of Real Madrid - we shouldn't really be surprised.

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Source : 90min