Last Thursday, 19-year-old Abdi Sharif extended his contract with Liverpool following a difficult period caused by a serious knee injury. After 13 years with the Reds, could this be his chance to shine?
Sharif first trained with Liverpool at just six years old, having played football since the age of three when his family moved to the UK from Somalia. After three years he officially joined the club, clearly having made a strong impression.
The Toxteth-raised teen is primarily a midfielder, but has also been deployed as a right-back and right-wing-back, proving his versatility and all-round skill. In an interview for the Liverpool FC site in 2018, Sharif said: “Midfield is the position I want to play in but if the team need a position to be played then I’m always up for that. I’m always available.”
In the same interview, academy coach Steven Gerrard described the young star as “a very strong runner” and someone who could hit “big numbers”. But has he proved this talent in matches?
Like many of his peers at the academy, Sharif’s youth has been of great benefit to him. At the age of just 15 the young midfielder made his u18 debut for the club. Academy players like Leighton Clarkson, who continuously compete in the age category above their own are extremely valuable assets to a club.
Reaching a senior level at a young age provides opportunity for a long-term commitment to a squad, or increased time for opportunities such as loan spells to gain further experience.
Despite appearing for the team over a number of years, it was during the 2018/19 season when Sharif proved to be such a key player for the u18s. Following a solid 16 wins out of 22, the team went on to finish second in the u18 Premier League that year.
Sharif’s talent paved the way for more success that season when he was called up for the u18 FA Youth Cup team. In the final, against Manchester City, he scored a penalty during the shootout that resulted in a victory for the Reds, putting on display his maturity and composure. That same year, the teenager was also called up for the u23 squad, again representing LFC amongst players years his senior.
However, in the summer of 2019, shortly after signing his first professional contract with the team, the young midfielder suffered a serious knee injury which left him needing surgery. To this day he is still in rehabilitation, but hopes to be fit and ready for the beginning of next season.
Although Sharif is no doubt a great talent, his peers and teammates with whom he is fighting for squad places now have an extra season’s worth of experience under their belt in comparison.
Stars of the academy such as Neco Williams and Jake Cain impressed with senior first team appearances over the last nine months, whilst Sharif battled through rehabilitation. One year out in football, however short it may seem, can be hugely detrimental, especially at that age.
Despite this, it is clear that the Anfield club has belief in the 19-year-old and his talent, offering him a contract extension alongside a confidence boost. His ability to play wherever he is needed on the pitch and his strong record of match wins and all-round success has led Sharif to this new chapter, where it is hoped he will make up for lost time.
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