It took just three minutes of Harvey Elliott’s first Premier League start for him to justify Liverpool’s meticulous, and patient, approach to his development.
The young winger turned midfielder tore through the centre of Anfield and won a free kick for Liverpool in their comfortable home win over Burnley. Six minutes later, the teenager won another set piece for the Reds, this time in a far more threatening positioning.
While nothing came from the two opportunities, there was an overwhelming feeling that Elliott’s selection was a statement of sorts by Jurgen Klopp and the club.
Elliott’s first Premier League start has not materialised overnight. Instead, it was the realisation of a year of hard graft and a process put in place by Klopp and his management team.
Everything dates back to September 2020 when the teenager started against Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup. The Reds swept aside their Football League foes that evening, putting seven passed them at the LNER Stadium.
The winger’s performance was noted by the masses, with his quick feet and close control of the ball quickly capturing the attention of all in attendance. The next step for Elliott was regular first team football and he was duly sent out to Blackburn Rovers for the remainder of the 2020/21 campaign.
Under the watchful eye of Tony Mowbray, he played week in and week out in the Championship, scoring seven goals in 41 appearances – impressing his manager with his attitude and commitment from minute one.
“You can’t get him off the training ground,” Mowbray remarked of Elliott, talking to The Athletic. “When he plays a game and comes into training the next day, the lads who haven’t been involved might be taking part in a small-sided game and Harvey just wants to join in.
“He’s always out on the grass; so much that I have to keep sending him in. It’s an amazing attitude he’s got. He’s helping us, helping our team and hopefully we’re helping Liverpool develop a player and we’re helping Harvey. Everybody wins as far as I can see.”
Elliott returned to Liverpool in the summer of 2021 to link up with Klopp and the first team for pre-season preparations. In the sweltering heat of Central Europe, he was afforded starts in a number of friendlies – allowing him to get settled with the team’s patterns of play and comfortable with the pace of Klopp’s aggressive philosophy.
His performances against Mainz, Hertha Berlin, and Athletic Club were impressive, on each occasion a step up in class for Elliott. It’s evident this experience, as well as his year in the Championship, was enough to convince Klopp he was ready to start in the Premier League.
Within ten minutes of that first start against Sean Dyche’s combative Burnley, Elliott had set the tone of what was to come. He linked up superbly well with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah thereafter, looking at ease on the biggest stage of his career. His selection was further vindicated with just over 20 minutes remaining, when Elliott pulled down a terrific raking pass from Virgil van Dijk.
His control was instant, his awareness superb. Elliott fed the ball into the advanced Alexander-Arnold, who in turn flicked the ball into Sadio Mane. The Senegalese international then bore down on goal, sweeping past Nick Pope to put the game out of sight and wrap up three points for Liverpool.
But the moment was more significant than Liverpool putting the game out of reach. That was the moment Elliott confirmed he’s ready for regular action, something he’s likely to see plenty of in the weeks and months to come.
Elliott was comfortable in his skin and assured those previously caught up in his hype that his first Premier League start was well worth waiting for. His display was also rich reward for Liverpool, who may just have a superstar of the future on their hands.