Liverpool competed in front of a full Anfield crowd on Sunday for the first time in around 18 months, with a new player in the squad assuming the spotlight.
Supporters were reunited with stars such as Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane, but it was a youngster who took centre stage in Harvey Elliott.
The boyhood Liverpool fan – who is just 18-years-old – was deployed on the right of a midfield three for the Reds against Athletic Bilbao and he was a solid contributor throughout the contest.
Elliott was highly effective on the ball, consistently making productive decisions and executing to a high technical level, which allowed him to take risks without losing possession very often.
The teenager was deployed as a forward by Blackburn Rovers last year while on loan at Ewood Park, but Jurgen Klopp has shown an interest in using him in a deeper role at Liverpool this summer.
He’s started as a midfielder throughout the Reds‘ pre-season schedule, offering a similar balance between attack and midfield to a certain Philippe Coutinho, who departed Merseyside to join Barcelona in January 2018.
The Brazilian was effective in possession regardless of whether he was asked to play as a midfielder or a forward at Anfield, with Klopp showcasing a tendency to use him in deeper areas against weaker opposition.
Coutinho offered a link between different departments as a hybrid type of offensive player, almost in the mould of Kevin De Bruyne, Mason Mount or James Maddison.
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Each of those players have occupied both midfield and forward roles in the past 12 months without suffering from much of a performance decline once changing, with Elliott possessing the skill set to offer a similar squad option for Klopp.
Xherdan Shaqiri was occasionally used as a no.8 by the German last season as he searched for an offensive threat from the middle of the park – given the fitness issues of Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – but the Swiss international is rumoured to be leaving.
Elliott could be Liverpool’s long-term answer to the squad void.
Despite the fact that he’s still very much a teenager, the talented prospect could gradually become the club’s homegrown version of Coutinho in the coming years; Klopp could have his very own Reds adaptation of Mount or De Bruyne.