As someone who loves his flying backs, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp could cast some admiring glances at Southampton’s road on Saturday.
In Tino Livramento, the Saints possess one of the most exciting teenagers in the Premier League, surpassing some of the top-class best defenders.
The 19-year-old is a threat going forward but just as effective in defense and has developed into a key player for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team, having missed just four minutes of Premier League action this season.
It has justified the young player’s potentially career-defining decision this summer to turn his back on current Premier League leaders Chelsea to pursue first-team football, despite having just been named Blues Academy Player of the Year.
Excellent in attack and defense from a young age
Winning such an award is not to be taken lightly given the enormous wealth of talent that has come through Chelsea’s youth system over the years – previous winners have included Mason Mount, Reece James and Conor Gallagher, all of whom now star in Premier League and plays for England.
While Livramento impresses as an attacking full-back, he could easily have come through and excelled in any position.
As a boy, he started as a center-back for his local Sunday League team Roundshaw, but was later deployed as a striker and ended a season as the club’s top scorer.
“I remember my coach at the time saying I was an excellent finisher and had the pace a winger needed,” said Livramento, who grew up idolizing Cristiano Ronaldo because of his Portuguese roots from his father. page.
“This gave me great confidence as a young boy and helped me continue to play such positive football.”
With a love for defending but a desire to attack, the full-back seemed a natural fit for Livramento, and it was not long before his abilities at both ends of the pitch captured Chelsea’s scouts as he switched to the Blues’ academy in 2009..
The right club, the right coach, the right time?
Livramento developed through the youth ranks at Chelsea and got his first taste of senior football as a 17-year-old when he was invited by then-manager Frank Lampard to train with the first team.
Other youth products Mount and James established themselves under Lampard, but their breakthroughs followed loan periods elsewhere.
It may also have been an opportunity for Livramento, but he had his heart set on a permanent step to be established.
“Me and my dad sat down in May and we talked together and thought the next step would be that I pushed into a Premier League team and we felt the better way for me was to leave Chelsea,” he said shortly after coming to Southampton.
“Of course it was not easy since I have been a fan for as long as I can remember and been a player there since I was seven.”
There was no lack of interest – with Brighton, AC Milan and Monaco reportedly eager for the right-back – but it was a talk with Hasenhuttl that convinced him his future lay in Southampton.
“He told me a lot about how he wanted me to train, how he wanted me to play, and what he wanted me to bring to the team,” Livramento said.
“It was really attractive for me to see him express those feelings and show how he sees me play on a Premier League team.”
It would have helped that Hasenhuttl is a coach who wants to give the youth a chance.
Since the Austrian took charge three years ago, 11 teenagers have made their Premier League debut for Southampton.
Saturday’s opponents Liverpool know all about the Saints giving the players the platform to flourish as they have signed contracts with several who have performed well for the club over the years.
There are those like Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane – important first-team players at Reds now – and others like Nathaniel Clyne who, although not as successful as the latter two, also highlighted the strength of Southampton’s youth development, especially in terms of full-back.
Luke Shaw came through the ranks before earning a switch to Manchester United, while Gareth Bale also appeared as a left-back before continuing to play a more advanced role after the switch to Tottenham.
Current Southampton striker Theo Walcott said recently that Livramento reminded him of the young Bale when he first came through the ranks of the south coast club.
Strong in defense and a threat going forward
Hasenhuttl had such a strong belief in Livramento’s talent that he wasted no time in giving him his first start for the club – in the Saints’ Premier League opening at Everton.
This surprised many, not least Livramento’s father, who as a lifelong Chelsea fan was instead at the Blues’ match with Crystal Palace the same day.
Livramento’s debut ended in a 3-1 defeat, but he nonetheless impressed and got one of the Southampton players’ highest ratings. by BBC Sport readers and he has grown stronger with each match, culminating in his nomination for October’s Premier League player of the month.
The statistics speak for themselves. With excellent positional awareness, he has regained ball possession more than any other top-class defender after doing so 84 times in 12 games.
He has also won more duels than any other defender (85) and made the third-highest number of tackles, with only Crystal Palace left-back Tyrick Mitchell and Tottenham right-back Emerson Royal managing more (both 34).
Premier League rankings (defenders)
Chances created open play
Cross from open play
Going forward at his pace and direct running is also a real threat.
Only teammate Kyle Walker-Peters (20) and Manchester United defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka (18) have completed more successful dribbles than Livramento (17), while only two defenders outside the traditional big six have created more chances from open. play than the youngster’s 10 – Aston Villas Matt Targett (14) and Brighton’s Marc Cucurella (12).
He is a constant threat to opponents, be it defense or attack, and that has led to him being one of the dirtiest players in the Premier League.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Ismaila Sarr (Watford)
Ivan Toney (Brentford)
Tino Livramento (Southampton)
He has already proven that he is a good buy – his fee of 5 million. GBP reportedly lower than it could have been because he was in the final year of his Chelsea contract.
At Anfield on Saturday, he will face one of his most stringent tests to date, where he will face a team with two of the best backs Premier League has seen. But it will also be a good barometer of how far he has come.