Within one month the summer transfer window will be closed over and locked for another year, but it would be useful for Liverpool to keep whistling the song of the summer long after deadline day, especially when evaluating £10m signing Andrew Robertson. Expect him to go despacito. Expect him to go slowly.
As much as the 23-year-old can burst from byline to byline in a flash, the Scotland international’s career has unfolded at a much steadier pace and he should be permitted further time to progress, even if he’s now at one of the biggest clubs in the country. The man who made his senior debut just five years ago against Berwick Rangers in front of a crowd of 372, and who didn’t turn professional until his move to Dundee United in 2013, will be contesting Champions League football in 2017/18, but that doesn’t mean he’s a Champions League-calibre player just yet. He undoubtedly will be. Just not this year.
The step up from Hull City to Liverpool is a mighty one and the flashes of what Jürgen Klopp labelled “unbelievable potential” that Robertson showed during his former club’s ill-fated 2016/17 campaign were enough to convince the Reds to revive their historic love affair with Scots. He then caught all eyes at the Olympiastadion in his pre-season debut, confidently keeping Hertha Berlin in check and making encouraging advances forward, while his ability to calmly play the ball out from the back was similarly excellent.
Yet glimpses of excellence won’t suffice at Anfield; consistent top-class performances are a must, not a hope. Right now, it would be unrealistic to expect Robertson to be ready to assume the starting left-back role and the best thing for him, and for Liverpool, could be for James Milner to continue marshalling the left side of defence, as the Englishman did so effectively last season in a position that should have seemed foreign to him. “I don’t know if Robertson is ready yet to play at the required level,” former vice-captain Jamie Carragher said of the matter in an interview with 5Times. “There is a big jump from playing at one end of the league to playing at the top end of the league. However, in the games I’ve seen him play for Hull he has always shone and was one of their best players.” With Milner now 31 and with European football back in Liverpool’s diary, Robertson will still be given plenty of minutes and should be ready to take over as Klopp’s left-back this time next year. But to thrust that responsibility upon him too soon could be irreversibly damaging.
Of course, the player himself would disagree – which professional wouldn’t? “I’ve come here wanting to be first choice,” Robertson told The Telegraph. “Obviously it’s up to the manager as the competition will be big for the position, but it’s one where I’m hoping to come out on top. I don’t like it if I’m not part of the starting team. I don’t like sitting on the bench even when it was very rare at Hull to rest during cup games. I’m not a good spectator. I’m a nightmare when I’m injured and I’m not playing.” It would, however, be a scarier and more scarring nightmare for Robertson to be launched off the cliff of a potential Premier League title challenge before he has fully learned to fly.
You don’t have to look too far to find other examples, as it could be argued that Alberto Moreno suffered from being handed too much responsibility too early, at the same age as Robertson is now. The Spaniard has never quite recovered from the barrage of criticism directed his way after poor performances like that of the 2016 Europa League final and it would be a setback if Robertson has to go through something similar. He’s still raw and will make mistakes, but by patiently easing him into the lineup he’ll surely be better off by the time the 2018/19 season kicks off. Then Anfield should sit back, and enjoy this flying Scotsman.