Premier League • England

Liverpool star given highest possible praise as brilliant display reminds pundit of iconic Ballon d’Or winner

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah, Liverpool, March 2023

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be beaming after hearing right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has shown similarities with an icon of the game during his top performance for England on Friday night.

Alexander-Arnold was surprisingly given the number 10 shirt in the build up to England’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Malta, despite generally being viewed as a right-back. But the 24-year-old has been operating in a hybrid midfield-defence role for Liverpool in recent months and England boss Gareth Southgate was looking to make use of his attacking talent.

As such, Southgate selected Alexander-Arnold in a midfield three alongside Liverpool team-mate Jordan Henderson and West Ham star Declan Rice, who is being heavily tipped to sign for Arsenal.

The outright midfield role gave Alexander-Arnold even more freedom than he gets at Liverpool as he did not have to track back as much, with Newcastle defender Kieran Trippier operating at right-back.

And Alexander-Arnold flourished with a brilliant display that will leave both Klopp and Southgate delighted. He played an important role in England’s opener, sending Bukayo Saka in behind the Malta defence with a great pass in the eighth minute.

Saka tried to put the ball across for Harry Kane but it was smashed home for an own goal by Ferdinando Apap.

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Alexander-Arnold then doubled England’s lead with a sublime strike in the 28th minute. He received the ball 25 yards out after some good work by James Maddison and then sent a powerful curling effort past Malta keeper Henry Bonello.

Kane and Callum Wilson then scored penalties either side of half time as England picked up a 4-0 win on the road.

Liverpool star has similar qualities to Messi, says pundit

On talkSPORT, former Chelsea and Aston Villa striker Tony Cascarino reacted to Alexander-Arnold’s performance by heaping praise on the Liverpool ace.

“You look at Trent, and you know he can deliver for England,” the pundit said.

Cascarino then stressed that he did not want to compare Alexander-Arnold with seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, although the defender-turned-midfielder does have some world-class attributes he can show off.

“Trent has qualities that are not far off Lionel Messi,” Cascarino added.

Clearly, Alexander-Arnold and Messi are far different players when it comes to positions, style of play and physicality. But to even be mentioned in the same sentence as the Argentine World Cup winner represents a massive boost for Alexander-Arnold.

The Liverpool academy graduate has been criticised in recent seasons for his lack of defensive awareness, which has cost Liverpool several goals. But he has always been a threat going forward and it is good to see both Klopp and Southgate giving him more freedom to attack.

Alexander-Arnold has widely been tipped to become an out-and-out midfielder some day as he can spray passes around just like Steven Gerrard used to do for Liverpool. Alexander-Arnold’s performance against Malta is another big step towards him making such a transition.

Meanwhile, a Liverpool target has seemingly told the club to bid for him by admitting he is ‘open’ to such a transfer.