Ryan Gravenberch showed what a fine midfielder he can become for Liverpool after dazzling in win over Fulham… despite a difficult first year, the Dutchman can have a big future at Anfield, writes LEWIS STEELE

Liverpool saw something in Ryan Gravenberch that Bayern Munich did not. After tracking the Dutchman for several seasons, dating back to before his failed stint in Bavaria, the Reds knew he could be a pivotal member of their midfield.

Sadly for Liverpool fans, they have not had much of a window into just why the recruitment team thought he would be a star player. Save for glimpses here and there, it’s been a difficult first year in England for Gravenberch.

But Sunday’s performance against Fulham showed an example of what a fine midfielder he can become – and already might be if given chances to shine. He scored an important goal, Liverpool’s first from open play after four games without one, with a curling side-footed finish.

Aside from that, though, the 21-year-old put in a solid performance, perhaps his best in a league match for the Reds. He had a few shaky touches to start and looked a yard off the pace, but grew in confidence and started to dictate proceedings from midfield.

Gravenberch popped up in dangerous pockets – a No 8 on the team-sheet but his touch map showed he was an all-action midfielder with positive moments all over the pitch – and he put in a solid defensive shift off the ball.

Ryan Gravenberch’s performance against Fulham showed the fine midfielder he could become

The 21-year-old produced a superb finish to put the Reds ahead in the second half on Sunday

The 21-year-old produced a superb finish to put the Reds ahead in the second half on Sunday

It is not a huge slight to say he has not hit the ground running as he might have liked in his first season on Merseyside. Some of the best midfielders in the league, like Bernardo Silva or Martin Odegaard, had slow starts in their first seasons at Manchester City and Arsenal respectively.

But with this his 34th appearance for Liverpool, Gravenberch has now matched the number of matches he played for Bayern Munich across two seasons in which he could barely make an impression under a number of managers following moving from Ajax as a teenager.

In an interview earlier this season, the midfielder said he used to look up to the great Zinedine Zidane and, while direct comparisons with the Real Madrid and France legend would be a stretch, Gravenberch glides around the pitch in a balletic style few can match.

The £34.3million summer signing was also at somewhat of a disadvantage with the fact he did not spend pre-season with Liverpool and only joined the club on Deadline Day, with Bayern wanting to buy a replacement before sanctioning his exit.

But this performance gave Reds fans hope he could play a big role in the new-look side under a fresh manager when Jurgen Klopp departs in the summer. His first Premier League goal was just his fourth for the club and more involvement in the penalty box will be wanted.

His strike, assisted by Harvey Elliott, was the first time Liverpool had a Premier League goal both scored and assisted by players aged 21 or younger since November 2014 against Chelsea (Emre Can assisted by Raheem Sterling). It shows depths of young talent the team has.

Cody Gakpo also produced his best performance in some time against the Cottagers

Cody Gakpo also produced his best performance in some time against the Cottagers

Gravenberch’s performance was just one highpoint in an all-round team display that was much improved, more patient and clinical than the draw against Manchester United, loss to Crystal Palace and disappointing two-legged Europa League exit at the hands of Atalanta.

Cody Gakpo also put in his best outing in some time and continually caused Fulham’s defence problems, while full backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were not far from their top level after both have missed recent games through injury.

But Gravenberch showed he can be the Flying Dutchman Liverpool fans hoped they were buying in the summer. With a dose of Dutch courage – or, in football terms, getting a vote in confidence by having a streak in the XI – the 21-year-old can have a big future at Anfield.

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