Harry Wilson, Liverpool & The European Cup

This is a curious period for Liverpool supporters. Such is the euphoria that we’re still feeling from our Champions League win over Tottenham Hotspur that most of us want to watch the Reds play again tomorrow. Normally at the end of a season most of us are ready for a break, keen to go on holiday, read a book or otherwise return to a sense of normality after an emotionally exhausting campaign. We need to re-charge our batteries so that we’re ready to go again when August comes around, whetting our whistle by watching a pre-season match every now and then but generally being happy to not have to feel as though our moods are dependent on the result of a football match. Right now, though, we’re riding high to such an extent that I’ve seen loads of people watching and tweeting about England over the past week or so. Admittedly most of those tweets were wondering how normal people can watch such dross, but Liverpool supporters turning to the national team for a footballing fix really does demonstrate how desperate some people are to keep watching the game.

The joy of being European champions hasn’t rubbed off for most Liverpool supporters yet, though it’s fair to say that the idea that we’d be ‘unbearable’ has proven to be slightly wide of the mark. Yet it’s also naturally that the conversation begins to move on after some time and it feels as though that time is coming. People were happy to celebrate the event a week after the fact on Saturday, but as the days have passed so too has the need to look at what comes next for the Reds. After all, most of Europe will be waiting to see what the champions of the continent decide to do in the transfer market before making their own moves. Yes, players will be bought and sold in the coming weeks regardless of us, but it would be naive to think that plenty of agents aren’t being asked about the chances of a move to Anfield by their clients. After all, this isn’t just a flash in the pan like it was in 2005 but instead will hopefully prove to be the start of a period of domination for Liverpool Football Club.

What’s It Got To Do With Harry Wilson?

Liverpool’s journey to the Champions League final to face Real Madrid in 2018 felt improbably, remarkable and perhaps came a season too soon for the players. It’s clear that they learnt a lot from the loss, however, and worked hard this year to put it right. Those that criticised the match for not being a very interesting spectacle are failing to realise that the Reds had to do one thing and one thing only: win. They did so, becoming European champions for the sixth time in the club’s existence, which is double the number of times that the next closest English club have managed. The combination of that win with a league total of ninety-seven points means that Jürgen Klopp’s men are serious contenders on both fronts moving in to next season. We’re in a position where the best players on the planet are going to be having a long, serious think about whether they’d like to play for us; a notion which is strengthen by the fact that our players seem to be having so much fun doing it.

That means that suddenly the future of players like Harry Wilson is much less clear. The twenty-two-year-old spent last season on loan with Derby County, developing his game under Frank Lampard and helping the Rams get all the way to the Championship. We’ve all seen his spectacular goals during the campaign, leading some supporters to believe that he should be given a chance to prove himself next season. Yet, for me, the cause of Harry Wilson sums up where Liverpool are right now. We’re no longer the club that has scraped top-four finishes and is being rebuilt by the German in the dugout. We don’t need to take punts on youngsters that have done well in the second-tier of English football, but can instead look at the top shelf of transfer targets and be reasonably confident of bringing them in. It will be a shame for Wilson if he’s sold this summer, but rather than lament that fact we should celebrate not needing to hope such prospects come good any more.

We Should Be Shopping On The Top Shelf

The simple reality is that we’re heading into this summer as one of the most attractive clubs in Europe. No longer is Anfield seen as a stepping stone for talented youngsters to head to in order to develop themselves before getting a move to a ‘big club’. Instead we have become that big club once again, being watched by everyone who is looking to move on from their current side in the next couple of months. The question for Jürgen Klopp and his team is no longer about whether or not they can keep their best players but is instead about which lads they’d like to bring in to bolster our ranks. With that in mind, would anybody seriously be saying that we should buy Harry Wilson from Derby if he wasn’t on our books? I don’t think he’s even cross many supporters’ minds.

The good news for Wilson is that the manager is a fair man. He’ll unquestionably given him a chance to prove himself during pre-season, but he’ll have to hit truly spectacular heights in order to convince Klopp that he’s good enough to play for the European champions. We’re being linked with the likes of Nicolas Pepe and even Gareth Bale, so the goalposts have been moved as far as the level that we’re operating at is concerned. Wilson is a very talented football, of that there’s no doubt. Yet is his level the same as our level? Of that I’m not convinced. There were plenty of times when he went missing for Derby last season and he struggled to make an impact in the Championship Play-Off Final against Aston Villa. We should be buying players that take us to the next level, that are able to compete with those currently in the squad for their place and, sadly, I’m not sure that the twenty-two-year-old fits that brief.

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