Harry can’t af­ford to waste time at Reds

WIL­SON SHOULD FOL­LOW SANCHO PATH

The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

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.

World-class

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.

Con­vinced

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.

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