Livramento has grabbed his Southampton chance with both hands

Valentino Livramento had no first-team experience when he joined Southampton but has looked totally at home on the Premier League stage… his fine form will have Chelsea wondering what might have been as he prepares to face his old side

  • Valentino Livramento will come up against his former club Chelsea on Saturday 
  • The full-back has shone at Southampton since making the move in the summer 
  • His form has seen him establish himself as a regular in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side 

When opportunity knocks, what are you going to do? It is a question that was put to a younger Valentino Livramento numerous times as he began making his way in the football world.

The poser, from his father Louis came with three options – grab it with both hands, stay in neutral and let it pass you by or, worse still, choke and go backwards.

Not for the first time in his fledgling career Livramento, one of the Premier League’s standout youngsters so far, has picked the first answer since joining Southampton from Chelsea.

Valentino Livramento has shone for Southampton this season since joining in the summer

Despite some expectations that he would be drip-fed appearances during his debut season Livramento has once again seized his opportunity, but perhaps in the most spectacular fashion yet.

The teenager who arrived with no first-team experience to his name in August heads back to Stamford Bridge just weeks later having quickly emerged as Southampton’s first-choice right-back and looking totally at home on the Premier League stage.

Livramento has made the sort of impact that might leave some at Chelsea wondering might have been.

They knew full well his talent and potential having signed him as an under-9 after he was spotted playing for Epsom Eagles in an age group managed by former top-flight full-back Ben Thatcher, seen him win Chelsea’s academy player of the year award last season and make the first-team bench twice at the end of last term.

The young full-back has established himself as a key member of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team

His start to this season has confirmed it.

Chelsea have at least protected themselves by inserting a buy-back clause into the deal, a hefty one though worth over £40m.

Exciting attacking full-back Livramento was one of a number of youngsters to leave Chelsea in the summer and join other Premier League clubs.

The natural assumption is that frustration or fear about the congested route to the first team forced them to look elsewhere.

But in Livramento’s case it was more about respect for the men ahead of him, captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James.

James, in particular, represented arguably the biggest obstacle as Chelsea’s future, just three years older than Livramento and already an established Premier League and England player.

Livramento accepted that, respected James securing the sort of status Chelsea’s academy products crave, what it has taken to get there and had few qualms about taking his next steps elsewhere.

A couple of other factors contributed. Chelsea’s interest in Achraf Hakimi, who eventually joined PSG, suggested there were plans to make the competition even hotter.

The Saints were worried that Brighton might beat them to the sought-after right back

And these elements were combining as Livramento’s determination to play first-team football was only rising and his contract had just one year left. The summer became decision time for all parties.

The number of clubs interested from home and abroad was lengthy and as the season approached Southampton feared he was Brighton-bound.

But when that long-touted deal never actually got over the line Southampton spotted their opportunity and pounced wrapping up a whirlwind deal worth up to £5m over a late July/early August weekend.

Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has struggled to conceal his excitement both publically and privately at capturing one of the best young players in the country.

Five days after it was completed, Livramento made his debut in a friendly against Athletic Bilbao and those present at St Mary’s got a greater understanding of the reason for the fuss.

With Southampton 2-0 down at half-time Livramento came off the bench.

With his first touch, just seconds after his entrance, Livramento controlled a loose ball on his chest and with his second played a defence-splitting pass to set up Theo Walcott’s 46th minute consolation.

Despite impressing at Chelsea, Livramento never made a senior appearance for the club

On a bit of a morale-denting pre-season day his cameo was a silver lining.

Still, his Premier League debut at Everton a week later was a surprise, so much so that his father had tickets for Chelsea’s first home game of the season on the same day.

Not one to make a fuss, Livramento insisted there was no need for any plans to be changed.

Livramento has not dropped out of Hasenhuttl’s league team since and continued his climb up the England ladder with a first under-21 call up this season.

He has represented England at every level from under-15s but is also eligible for Portugal and, intriguingly, Scotland through grandparents on his mother’s side.

Excitingly for Southampton and England – or, perhaps, one of the other two nations – there is much more to come.

Livramento has also earned his first England Under-21 call-up as his stock continues to rise

Some believe Livramento has only displayed around 60 per cent of what he is capable of.

At Southampton, and aside from his obvious technical and physical qualities, his character is considered arguably his biggest strength – a humility that means he does not quite realise how good he already is and is therefore constantly pushing himself to improve, the sort of trait one would want in any athlete.

Watching Livramento look so at ease at the highest level it is hard to imagine he was once a little uncomfortable in the spotlight as a younger player.

But he has shed much of that shyness and got used to eyes being on him as they will be on Saturday.

Safe to say, when he gets the chance to show the player he has now become he will take it.

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