Harvey Elliott is very good at football.
That might sound like we’re stating the obvious. After all, you don’t become the Premier League ’s youngest ever player if you do not have a fair amount of talent.
But this season, Elliott has proven that we will be hearing a lot more about him in the coming years and is ‘100 per cent confident’ that he is ready to challenge for a starting spot at Liverpool next season.
It was two years on Tuesday since Elliott came on for the final couple of minutes of Fulham ’s game with Wolves, just 30 days after his 16th birthday, surpassing Matthew Briggs’ record as the Premier League’s youngest ever player which had stood for 12 years.
It was no surprise that a move to a top six club was to follow that summer, as he travelled north to Liverpool, and he went on to make eight appearances for the first team in his debut campaign at Anfield, becoming the youngest player to ever start for the club and the youngest to be involved in a Premier League winning squad in the process.
Elliott left the Londoners before signing a professional contract and with Fulham rejecting Liverpool’s initial offer of £750,000, a tribunal was needed.
In the end, the Reds were forced to pay an initial £1.5m for Elliott, plus £2.8m depending on the player’s performance, and it is believed Fulham also secured a 20 per cent sell-on clause.
But even if Liverpool do end up paying the full amount, they still landed an absolute bargain.
Elliott did not end up joining Blackburn on loan until mid-October, meaning he missed the first five games of the Championship season, but he certainly made up for lost time and has not missed a game since.
No teenager in English football’s top four divisions has had more goal involvements this season, with Elliott scoring six goals and creating 11 assists in 31 starts and nine substitute appearances.
Reading’s Michael Olise – who beat Elliott to the EFL Young Player of the Year Award – may have had identical figures for goals and assists but it is worth noting that he is 16 months older than Elliott, made five more starts and is playing for a side challenging for the play-offs.
Elliott, on the other hand, has been part of a Blackburn side who have only won three games since January and currently sit in 15th position.
When you look at the Championship leaderboard for creative stats, Elliott is often only surpassed by Norwich City’s Emiliano Buendía – a player who has a £40 million price tag and is wanted by Arsenal.
Buendia ended up with 16 assists and created 2.6 chances per 90 minutes compared to Elliott’s 1.9 but once again, this is someone playing for the champions and has players such as Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell alongside him in attack.
Elliott’s performances have been superb and when you factor in that he only celebrated his 18th birthday a month ago, then they are remarkable.
Playing off the right wing for most of the campaign, Elliott has been Blackburn’s creative force this season and has been the one looking for that killer pass most often.
Blessed with silky skills, he has proven this season that he is not just a showman who lacks the end product.
The teenager is also blessed with a wand of a left foot. The quality of his six goals this season prove that.
When asked by the Counter Attack podcast if he had expected to make such an impact at Blackburn, Elliott admitted: “No, not at all really. My main aim was to get playing and get game time, and I think I’ve played in every single game almost.
“To take that away is unreal. I got my 50th appearance a couple of games ago. I looked back and went ‘Wow, I’ve played 50 games already’. For my age, it’s crazy to think about that.
“Personally I never thought I’d have my 50th appearance by my 18th birthday. It’s been a brilliant season. I can’t thank Blackburn enough.”
But whilst that answer shows modesty, don’t be fooled into thinking Elliott lacks confidence. You only have to watch him play to see that.
And crucially, he has shown at Blackburn that he is willing to press from the front and work hard when out of possession. Something he will need to have if he is to become a regular for Jurgen Klopp.
So what next for Elliott?
Pep Guardiola showed with Phil Foden that a young talent can flourish in the Premier League without the traditional route of countless loans until he is deemed ready. And Klopp himself has proven he is willing to trust young players if they have the talent.
If the Reds do decide to loan him out once again, he will almost certainly have offers in the Premier League if the club want a step up in quality. Or the Reds boss may decide that another full season in the Championship may be of more benefit. After all, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and the challenge for any young player is often finding that level of consistency needed to star on the biggest stage.
As for Elliott, he has no doubt that he is ready to challenge for a first team place at Liverpool.
“Definitely,” he said. “I had a few appearances here and there last season and took this loan with Blackburn, which I personally thought would be the best thing for me.
“I had a chat with Jurgen as well and he said for me to go and express myself, and that the move would be the best thing for my career and for me to get the games and experience. He said he’d support me 100 per cent.
“Next season I am going to go back thinking I can get in the team. I have had this experience and feel ready, and have 50 appearances under my belt, which is a lot for a teenager.
“I feel 100 per cent confident I can go in and challenge. I’m looking forward to the fight and showing to people I am a different player and ready to play when called upon.
“I will need to work hard and train well and if I get my chance, I have to take it.”