Harry can’t afford to waste time at Reds
WILSON SHOULD FOLLOW SANCHO PATH
IHARRY Wilson was always good. So good, in fact, that youth coaches at Liverpool dubbed him the Welsh Brazilian.
The cockiness. The tricks. The laser-guided free-kicks. “He was special,” said Reds legend Ian Rush. “I watched him in the Under-23s and he was far too good for them. He had so much skill.”
Last Saturday, just 15 games into a season-long loan at Derby, he already looked too good for the Championship.
Not many players can make a Tony Pulis back four look like Sunday League plodders. Against a Middlesbrough outfit with the meanest defence in the division, Wilson did just that.
Shots from all angles, pinpoint passes, fearless runs; when he got the ball, trepidation swept the Riverside. Only the post denied him a spectacular goal. The 21-year-old was electric.
Wilson’s performance recalled that of Wilfried Zaha in his first season at Crystal Palace or Ross Barkley during his loan stint at Sheffield Wednesday.
Both operated in their own bubble of space and time, like Keanu Reeves dodging bullets in the Matrix. That is what Premier League class looks like.
In fact, Wilson has already cut the mustard against the loftiest opposition, netting a memorable free-kick in the Rams’ Carabao Cup victory over Man United.
But will any of that resonate with Jurgen Klopp? Asked about Wilson in early October, the German was typically enthusiastic.
“How he moves between the lines, how confident he looks with the ball, it is all cool,” he said. “He looks really fit. So that’s all good. Thank you to Derby - they obviously do a brilliant job. Next year, he is back.”
But what does back mean? Back in the Under-23s? Back out on loan? Or back to get a run in the first team? We all know that is unlikely.
Klopp has shown faith in youngsters before. But for all the talent of Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold, their ascent to the first team was greatly aided by Liverpool’s dearth of world-class defenders.
The same cannot be said of the Welsh Brazilian, who has a real Brazilian (Roberto Firmino), a Senegalese (Sadio Mane) and an Egyptian (Mo Salah) blocking his path.
Then there’s Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri, the latter signed this summer from Stoke for £13.5m to play in the exact position that Wilson craves - when he even gets on the pitch. All internationals. All supremely talented. All in their prime.
Not many players in the world would dislodge a front three hailed by Neil Warnock as the best on the planet. What hope, then, for a 21-year-old kid?
Very little, as Wilson clearly acknowledged last December, when he rejected a new deal and privately stated his intention to leave in search of first-team football.
He has since been convinced to remain at Anfield – presumably with assurances and a hefty wage – but the situation hasn’t changed and even success with Derby will have little bearing. Patrick Bamford, after all, won Championship Player of the Year on loan at Boro in 2015, yet Chelsea didn’t even give him a squad number the following season. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, after a stellar World Cup, remains a bit-part player at Stamford Bridge. Clubs at the business end of the Premier League can afford to sign, keep and stockpile the most talented players on the planet. Those players are, by definition, consistently excellent. Only injury can dislodge them from the first team. One need only look at the current trajectory of Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho. Both 18, both products of the Manchester City academy, both touted as future superstars. Unwilling to wait for a chance, Sancho joined Dortmund in the summer where a weekend brace against Hertha Berlin took him to five goals and eight assists in 14 games - enough to warrant a first England cap. Foden, stuck behind David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, has played a grand total of 140 minutes, his only start a League Cup victory over Oxford. And Foden at least has age on his side; Wilson will be 22 in March. He has perhaps ten good years left, which is why it would be crazy to waste even one stuck behind Salah and co. To return to Liverpool - under any circumstances - is senseless, and would rob the wider football world of a special talent. Wilson should follow the path forged by Sancho.