Connect with us

Liverpool

Everyone is talking about Kobbie Mainoo – but what Liverpool man did last night was jaw-dropping

Published

on

Theo Squires report from Bolton Wanderers’ Toughsheet Community Stadium as Liverpool midfielder Harvey Elliott once again stars for England Under-21s.

A section of the Liverpool fanbase have a rather ambivalent relationship with international football.

Boasting supporters from all over the world, many will be patriotic when it comes to their own homelands’ respective national sides. But when it comes to the England team, it’s ‘Scouse, not English’ for a reason.

Sure, Kopites feel pride and happiness on the behalf of Liverpool players when they are called up. Joe Gomez’s recent international recall after three and a half years is proof of that.

But beyond being pleased should the Reds stars from across the globe do well, their interest is predominantly limited to hoping that their players return back to the AXA Training Centre injury-free – something which hasn’t happened with Andy Robertson.

Of course, supporters can be offended and defensive on the behalf of Liverpool players, too, should they be overlooked. It did not go unnoticed that Manchester United’s Kobbie Mainoo was promoted swiftly from England’s under-21s to the senior squad when handed his maiden call-ups in the March international break for example, while Harvey Elliott remains overlooked by Gareth Southgate.

“I’m not sure,” England Under-21s manager Lee Carsley admitted when asked how far Elliott is off a senior call-up. “But if he’s playing week in, week out for Liverpool, scoring and assisting, being really important in that team, then he will put himself in the frame.”

Those of a Reds persuasion would inevitably respond, ‘isn’t that what he’s doing already?’

The 20-year-old has two goals and six assists from his last 10 games for Jurgen Klopp’s side, after all. The pedants will point out that he has one goal and one assist from eight Premier League outings in 2024, but starting their last three in the English top-flight, completing 90 minutes twice, his impact is increasing.

The March international break has offered Southgate his last chance to look at players up close ahead of this summer’s European Championships in Germany. Consequently, Mainoo has set tongues wagging after being handed his international debut against Brazil on Saturday night, having been fast-tracked without kicking a ball for the Under-21s just days after his maiden Young Lions call-up.

Still only 18, he has only made senior 23 appearances for the Red Devils and only made his full Premier League debut last November. Yet he is making a late charge to be on the plane to Germany.

So on a night when all eyes were on Wembley as Mainoo made his full England debut against Belgium, Elliott was instead running the show against Luxembourg at Bolton Wanderers’ Toughsheet Community Stadium in the Under-21s’ latest 2025 European Championships qualifier.

Admittedly, the pair are rather different profiles of midfielder. It is not a case of them being in direct competition. But that doesn’t stop eyebrows from raising back on Merseyside at the in-form Elliott, with 152 senior club appearances under his belt to date, being overlooked once again as Southgate hands out new opportunities elsewhere.

Mainoo would impress against Belgium as England toiled in a 2-2 draw, strengthening his cause for a place on the flight to Germany. But 211 miles away from Wembley, Elliott was running riot in an emphatic 7-0 win. ‘Southgate’s loss’, Kopites would understandably observe. In a break where the Three Lions boss had his hand forced to look at alternative options, could he not have found room in his squad for both?

“Sometimes you forget how young they are when you see them play,” Carsley would declare ahead of facing Luxembourg. That is certainly true in the case of Elliott, considering it is now four and a half years since he made his Liverpool debut.

He is younger than Jarell Quansah for example, and only three months older than Conor Bradley as his two team-mates continue to enjoy remarkable breakthrough seasons at Anfield. What would be made of Elliott’s own showings if his senior career wasn’t already into its sixth campaign?

The most experienced and well-known player in this Young Lions group, Elliott is also the most exciting. It was his name that was cheered loudest ahead of kick-off by a largely youthful 11,620 crowd, while his every touch in the Luxembourg half was greeted by an increased level of excitement and expectation by home supporters.

Unsurprisingly, given his experience at the highest level of world football, the playmaker makes Under-21s international football look ridiculously easy.

If that was ever in doubt, just look up his logic-defying volleyed rabona pass from Tuesday night, as he flicked the ball up before picking out Noni Madueke with a flawless and outrageous jaw-dropping piece of skill.

Having scored a brace in Friday’s 5-1 win over Azerbaijan, he added two glorious assists to his name in the 7-0 thrashing of Luxembourg, too, all while being kicked black and blue by opposing defenders, winning free-kicks after being left on the floor in a heap on more than one occasion.

The first saw him pick up possession in the centre-circle, leaving multiple defenders in his wake as he carried the ball forward before threading it through to Jamie Bynoe-Gittens to slot home England’s third. Moments later, a smart turn in midfield took him away from his marker before playing in Madueke for his second with another inch-perfect through-ball.

His tally in qualifying now stands at seven goals and four assists from just seven appearances, with the Liverpool star comfortably the leading goalscorer across the entire continent as a result. But that ridiculous rabona pass, which inevitably went viral on social media, was the lasting memory as supporters travelled home.

With Transfermarkt crediting him with three goals and eight assists for the Reds this season, he now has 22 goal contributions for club and country during the current campaign.

Having seen James Trafford and Rico Lewis promoted to Southgate’s squad after beating Azerbaijan, joining Mainoo, Cole Palmer, Antony Gordon and Jarrad Branthwaite in the senior set-up, Elliott would be forgiven for wondering when it will be his turn. Having already won the Under-21s European Championship once last summer, he is deserving of a greater stage than this.

Admittedly, Carsley’s men are finding qualification straight-forward. A 3-2 defeat in Ukraine is the only blemish on their record, with the Young Lions scoring a remarkable 32 goals, conceding just five, from their seven qualifiers so far. That includes a 9-1 thrashing of Serbia prior to their latest hefty wins over Azerbaijan and Luxembourg, as well as three other 3-0 victories.

Although better than a needless international friendly, these fixtures are proving to be competitive in name only. Elliott’s talents are being wasted on a platform he has comfortably outgrown.

Again overlooked by Southgate, his worth is at least fully felt back at Anfield in more worthy surroundings as Klopp’s men go in search of a treble, looking to add Premier League and Europa League glory to their already-clinched League Cup win. His manager might be departing in the summer, but Elliott is set for an ever-growing role in the Reds’ future under Klopp’s successor.

So an eye-catching campaign that, perhaps at times, goes under the radar away from Liverpool continues. But Elliott won’t complain, happy to remain patient as supporters remain offended at Southgate’s decision on his behalf. A manager’s dream, he just adores playing football, whatever the stage.

“I just fell in love with the game,” he said in a recent interview with SWM. “I loved playing then, and I still love playing now.”

And playing like this, he at least makes watching football fun.

 

Click to comment
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x