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'Special' Elliott can replace Salah as one face of Liverpool's next generation, says Carragher

12:03 GMT+3 16/02/2022
Harvey Elliott Liverpool 2021-22
The former Reds defender believes we're seeing the start of a new era at Anfield as several young players make their way

Former Liverpool star Jamie Carragher says he sees Harvey Elliott as a "special" player that could someday replace Mohamed Salah while ushering in a new era alongside Diogo Jota and new signing Luis Diaz.

Elliott recently returned to the Liverpool line-up after suffering a catastrophic knee injury earlier in the season, marking his first appearance since that injury with a goal in the FA Cup.

Long earmarked as one of the brightest young talents in English football, Elliott will now have the chance to earn a real regular role at Liverpool, with Carragher backing him to one day be a legitimate star presence for his former club.

'A special player'

Elliott signed with Liverpool in 2019, making the move from Fulham.

He's featured 15 times for the Reds in all competitions, having spent the 2020-21 season on loan with Blackburn.

Carragher believes, over the next year or so, Elliott will begin to play himself into Jurgen Klopp's plans, adding that the manager will have to find a way to get the teenager the playing time he needs to truly reach his potential.

"It makes you think Liverpool have got a special player, not just a good player," Carragher told GOAL.

"You think of how young he is and you think of the players we have had at that age that were really special: Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Raheem Sterling, you’ve seen Trent come through at that age. Sometimes you see someone that’s just special.

"It’ll be really interesting to see how Jurgen Klopp fits him in and gets him enough games between now and the end of the season and also whether that will have an impact on Liverpool’s business in the summer."

The biggest piece of business that Liverpool are dealing with right now is Mohamed Salah's contract, as the Egyptian star is heading towards the final year of his deal.

And Carragher says that he believes Elliott could be Salah's long-term replacement on the wing as Liverpool may not need to spend a large transfer fee to bring in a new version of the Egyptian.

"You have someone really special here, maybe in terms of Mo Salah’s replacement, if that’s the position he plays in.

"Mo Salah is getting to 30 now and we’re all desperate for him to sign a contract, but whenever Mo Salah goes, maybe you’ve got your ready-made replacement. Maybe not the same type of player, but a guy that plays on the right and comes in on that left foot.

"Maybe he’ll be more creative or maybe he’ll get less goals, who knows, but he’s definitely a special player and, in the next 18 months, he’ll have to find a position for him in the team because players of that quality have to play."

Diaz's fast start

Elliott isn't the only player to make an impression in recent weeks as new signing Luis Diaz is off to a strong start to life at Anfield.

Klopp raved about Diaz after seeing the £50 million ($68m) signing make his Premier League debut, saying "he looks like a Liverpool player" despite only playing two games for the club so far.

Diaz has already impressed Carragher as well, with the former Liverpool defender recalling how he would judge new signings during his time in the team.

"It will be interesting to see how quickly Klopp integrates Diaz into the team fully," Carragher said . "I'm sure he’ll get his minutes but you want to make a good start and I think, more often than not when I was a player, we would judge players very early with how you saw them in training and how they came across.

"More often than not when you see a top player, you see it very early or you see the signs. I think if you bring a new player in and you don't see too much early on at all or anything to get excited about I think that's a problem going forward. Even if you don’t hit the ground at 100 per cent, there are still some telltale signs that a player has something and Diaz is doing that right now."

Carragher also thought back to some players that maybe didn't get off to hot starts at Anfield, with it still very much a possibility that Diaz will need time to adjust to life in the Premier League.

The Colombia international isn't likely to unseat Salah or Sadio Mane right away and may need patience at some points, but Carragher says he remembers how patience paid off with some of his most successful team-mates.

"A couple of players had a slow start at Liverpool," he said. "Didi Hamann was one and turned into one of the best holding midfield players in world football. He was possibly one.

"Momo Sissoko,when he first came in he found it tough but then he became a real mainstay of the team with Xabi Alonso in the central midfield. There weren’t too many to be fair.

"More often than not, the great foreign players that come into the league were usually the ones that hit the ground running and you can see straight away that they’re a special player, so it's always good to have that."

A new generation?

Carragher believes that players like Elliott, Jota and Diaz can help usher in the next generation for Liverpool, who will inevitably need to rebuild in the coming years.

With several top stars approaching the age of 30, the Reds have already begun their preparations for the future, opting to gradually bring in replacements to initially serve as understudies before taking the reins for themselves.

"This team’s evolving," said Carragher, who is set to be part of CBS Sports and Paramount+'s Champions League coverage in the U.S. this week.

"You see that with Jota coming in, [Ibrahima] Konate at the back, [Kostas] Tsimikas putting pressure on {Andrew] Robertson, Diaz is 25. The team is evolving over the last 18 months. The average age of the team is being brought down because a lot of that team has been together for four or five years.

"They’re not getting old. They’re all in the prime of their careers, but that can turn very quickly. In 12-18 months, those players will be on the wrong side of 30.

"I think Liverpool have done good business, and there’s talk of getting Carvalho from Fulham as well, another young player and I’d expect another young player to come in in the summer as well.

"There haven’t been drastic changes, but they’ve integrated players slowly so it feels like you don’t notice as much that there’s a changing of the guard. That’s the best way to do it rather than moving these three players on and bringing these three players straight into the team. Jota took time to go into the team, Konate is just pushing [Joel] Matip, I’m sure Diaz will do the same to Mane. Who knows how long that takes, but before long they’ll step ahead.

"Liverpool have done it in a way where it doesn’t feel like they have done it, but when you see the business they’ve done, it’s really lowered the age and, in 18 months, I feel like we’ll be looking at a different team."

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