Harvey Elliott is a Liverpool superstar – so why is he still underrated?

Some talent spotters had their doubts about Harvey Elliott.

Chelsea took a close look when he was 11 but decided against signing him. Despite admiring his technical ability, they feared the slight young winger wouldn’t be able to cover sufficient ground as the next step up in age group meant adjusting to a bigger pitch.

His dad, Scott, the guiding light in his career, sat him down and explained that they needed to turn a weakness into a strength. They embarked on a gruelling hill climbing training programme together designed to build up his strength and stamina.

Elliott returned to Fulham’s academy after a stint at Queens Park Rangers and made rapid progress, culminating in a senior debut against Millwall at the age of 15 years and 174 days.

All those evenings spent on lung-busting ascents close to the family home in Surrey have certainly paid off. No one questions Elliott’s powers of endurance these days.

Liverpool have played 46 games in all competitions so far this season and he has been named in the matchday squad for all of them. There have been 21 starts, 20 outings off the bench — often to great effect — and five matches as an unused substitute. Only Darwin Nunez (42) and Cody Gakpo (42) have made more appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s side this term.

Elliott has clocked up 2,207 minutes of action before you even get to the 614 minutes he has registered for the England Under-21s, the latest of which came in last night’s 7-0 win against Luxembourg.

The only Premier League players under the age of 21 who have featured more in all club competitions in 2023-24 are Manchester United’s Alejandro Garnacho (2,612) and Chelsea’s Levi Colwill (2,338).

Elliott’s contribution has not received the wider acclaim it deserves. He might not possess the eye-catching athleticism of Dominik Szoboszlai, the combative qualities of Wataru Endo or the classy swagger of Alexis Mac Allister, but Elliott is an all-rounder who has been of huge value to Klopp — particularly this season when injuries have taken their toll on the squad.

He has showcased his versatility, shifting from a central midfield role to operating on the right of the front three during Mohamed Salah’s absence. Calm in possession, he is tireless and disciplined when it comes to winning it back.

Elliott’s tally of three goals and seven assists in all competitions doesn’t begin to do him justice. The underlying data, in terms of expected assists (xA) and open-play chances created per 90 minutes, show that he has been among the most creative midfielders in the Premier League over the past couple of seasons.

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With his skill set ideally suited to being a No 10, it is no surprise that Elliott is at his most creative when operating in what analysts refer to as ‘Zone 14’ — the area in the middle of the pitch immediately outside the penalty area.

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When Elliott scored in the FA Cup defeat to Manchester United before the international break, it was his eighth goal involvement (two goals, six assists) in his last 10 games in all competitions — as many as he managed in his previous 72 appearances for Liverpool.

From the joy of seeing his deflected shot fly past Andre Onana in extra time to the dismay of losing possession to substitute Amad in the build-up to United’s breakaway winner, it was some ride for Elliott. Typically, he fronted up to the media as he left Old Trafford rather than heading straight out to the team bus.

“I should have dealt with it,” he rued. “I take it on the chin and move on. We had it in our hands and threw it away. Football can be so high on emotions and can just go that quickly.”

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Elliott scores against United (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

At Fulham’s academy, they talk about the ‘Three Hs’ — honesty, humility and hard work — and Dan Thomas, who coached him from the age of 12 to 16, says Elliott always epitomised those values. They have served him well on Merseyside.

One of the reasons Elliott doesn’t always get the praise he deserves is that it is easy to forget just how young he still is.

Elliott has been around so long that he wasn’t even mentioned in the conversation about how the youngsters stepped up to help Liverpool cope with their injuries. Yet, he is three months younger than Jarell Quansah and just three months older than Conor Bradley.

When teenagers Lewis Koumas and Jayden Danns stole the show in the 3-0 FA Cup win over Southampton, it was Elliott who created the most chances (five) and made the most ball recoveries (eight) that night.

Approaching his 21st birthday next Thursday, Elliott already has 107 Liverpool appearances to his name. Last month, he became the fourth-youngest player in the club’s history to reach the century milestone. Only Michael Owen, Raheem Sterling and Robbie Fowler got there quicker.

It is all the more remarkable considering that Elliott spent the entire 2020-21 season on loan at Championship side Blackburn Rovers and then missed five months the following campaign after suffering a fracture dislocation on his left ankle against Leeds United.

A tribunal ruled in 2021 that Liverpool would have to pay Fulham up to £4.3million ($5.4m) for Elliott. Most of the clauses have already been triggered but one remains — Elliott is still waiting for a senior England call-up.

He couldn’t have done much more to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s plans before this summer’s European Championship but his claims have so far been ignored. Chelsea’s Cole Palmer and Manchester United’s Kobbie Mainoo have made the leap from the under-21s to the senior squad ahead of him.

Elliott scored twice in a 5-1 victory over Azerbaijan on Friday and then contributed two assists in Tuesday’s 7-0 rout of Luxembourg. With seven goals across seven matches, he is the top scorer in qualifying for next year’s Under-21s European Championship. In truth, he has outgrown that level having been part of the squad which lifted that trophy in 2023.

His decision to turn up his England shirt collar, which meant the much-discussed multi-coloured St George’s Cross on the new England shirt wasn’t visible, caused a stir, but under-21s manager Lee Carsley insists it was a fashion choice rather than a protest.

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Harvey Elliott – complete with upturned collar – has outgrown England’s Under-21s (Jess Hornby/Getty Images)

“Yeah, I think it’s something he did at Blackburn,” he said. “He has been fine. We’ve not really mentioned his collar, to be fair. Even for his age, he is a senior player within in our team as he has done a campaign, he is playing really well at Liverpool and is a brilliant example. He trains so hard every day. It’s good to see he’s getting his rewards.”

What more does Elliott have to do to earn that step up to the seniors?

“I think he’s doing all he can,” Carsley added. “You put yourself in the frame by playing week in, week out at Liverpool, which is going to be a brilliant end to the season now. Hopefully he can keep that form up and give himself an opportunity.”

It’s an uphill battle with the Euros so close but Elliott has always embraced taking on steep challenges.

(Top photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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