Harry Wilson - The £20m player with his eye on a Liverpool first-team place next season

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Harry Wilson Derby County Manchester United League Cup 25092018
Ryan Giggs and Frank Lampard love him but can the Welshman convince Jurgen Klopp he has a place at Anfield?

It is getting on for two years since Adam Lallana gave an interview in which he was asked about the plethora of rising stars at Liverpool.

He had a few to choose from at the time. Trent Alexander-Arnold had recently made his Premier League debut, Ben Woodburn had become the club’s youngest ever goalscorer a couple of months previously, while Ovie Ejaria was a regular with Jurgen Klopp’s first-team squad at Melwood.

Lallana, though, chose to wax lyrical about another of the Reds’ teenage talents.

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“I see great potential for Harry Wilson,” he told the cameras. “Everyone is talking about Ben, Trent, Ovie, but Harry keeps his head down, works hard, and I think he has a great future ahead of him. He has a great left foot.”

The world knows all about that left foot now. “The wand,” they used to call it at Liverpool’s Academy up in Kirkby, but Wilson has since taken his magic on the road, away from Merseyside.

Manchester United know what he can do, Southampton too. He impressed against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and has been delivering for Wales on the international stage. Frank Lampard loves him and so does Ryan Giggs.

The question now is whether Klopp can find a place for him in his Liverpool squad.

Wilson’s loan at Derby could hardly have gone better. With 10 Championship goals, and 12 in all competitions, the Wrexham-born wideman is catching the eye on a weekly basis. He’s already putting together his very own ‘Goal of the Season’ compilation, with a series of sublime left-footed strikes from outside the area. His 30-yard free-kick at Old Trafford, surely, is the best of all.

Impressive stuff, though the idea that Wilson is a ‘highlights reel’ player has recently been dismissed by Lampard.

“Ten [league] goals is a great return, and his spectacular goals have been great on the eye but my biggest pleasure is seeing his performances in the past month,” said the Rams boss.

"His all-round game, the energy, the personality to receive the ball and be pivotal in the game has gone up a notch, and I think there are more notches to go.

"That is credit to Harry and hopefully he can continue that progress in the second half of the season."

Frank Lampard Harry Wilson 2018/19

Liverpool had the option to recall Wilson earlier this month, but chose to let him remain at Pride Park. They have tracked his progress closely through Julian Ward, their loan pathways manager, and have been delighted with the 21-year-old’s development. In Lampard, and particularly in Derby assistant Jody Morris, the Reds have found coaches with both the patience and personality, as well as skill, to handle such a talent.

Wilson’s decision to snub other offers in the summer has paid off. He could, for example, have chosen Aston Villa or Stoke, big clubs with Premier League aspirations, fanbases and infrastructures. Both, though, have changed managers following underwhelming starts to the season. For a young player on loan, stability is key.

So, at Derby, he has been able to find his feet in a vibrant, possession-focused team. Lampard has used him on both flanks, as well as centrally as both a No.8 and a No.10. No wonder Wilson’s all-round game has come on. Remember the callow teenager who struggled in League One with Crewe three years ago? He's been replaced by a confident, decisive attacker who makes an impact almost every time he steps onto the field.

Suddenly, Liverpool have a huge asset on their hands. Wilson will return to Merseyside in the summer hoping he can be a part of Klopp’s plans for the future. Given his performances in the second half of last season at Hull, and before that as the free-scoring captain of the Under-23s, he could hardly have done more.

So far, he has managed just one senior appearance for the Reds, as a substitute against Plymouth in the FA Cup back in January 2017. He impressed during the last pre-season, but the presence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, and the signing of Xherdan Shaqiri, meant that a loan made more sense than a year on the fringes of the first team.

It’s proven to be a good decision, for all parties. Wilson will play for Derby at Accrington in a televised FA Cup fourth-round tie on Saturday, and his next appearance will be the 50th of his professional career. He is adding to his game by the week, getting stronger and fitter, learning about game management and the importance of consistency. He’s performing home and away, against Premier League opposition as well as Championship. His development is obvious.

Harry Wilson Liverpool 2018/19

What would Liverpool get if they chose to sell in the summer? Wilson signed an improved five-year contract before moving to Derby, and his value has rocketed since. He surely has a higher ceiling than either Dominic Solanke or Danny Ings, each of whom will fetch the Reds close to £20 million, and he will have no shortage of Premier League suitors next summer, you can be sure. Liverpool have already fielded enquiries from clubs asking to be kept in the loop.

A nice dilemma to have, for sure. For now, though, the debate can wait. Wilson has his eyes on a successful end to the season.

“I want to help Derby get into the Premier League,” he says. “I want to keep scoring and assisting, helping the team and getting us as high up the league as I can. I’m loving it.”

If he carries on as he has been, he’ll give Liverpool – and Klopp – plenty to think about in the coming months. A new signing? Not quite, but the Reds have built themselves a £20 million footballer, for sure.