Tino Livramento: I had to leave Chelsea for my career – Southampton have given me the opportunity to play

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Listening to Tino Livramento reel off the list of players he has faced since leaving Chelsea to join Southampton, it is hard to comprehend that he had not played a single minute of senior football before August.

The right-back, who left the Blues as their academy player of the year to join the Saints in August, has been a sensation on the south coast and since usurping former Tottenham man Kyle Walker-Peters in the side on the opening day he has started every game.

Such has been the speed of his rise that Livramento has hardly had the time to comprehend the "crazy" whirlwind that has been the last two months.

The 18-year-old, who has also earned a place in the England Under-21s squad, has already tussled with a star-studded cast this term.

Considering his toughest opponents in this fledgling career, he pauses and then can’t stop going: "There’s been loads. Richarlison, Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, Jack Grealish, [Joao] Cancelo, Said Benrahma... playing against Callum [Hudson-Odoi] as well was a good challenge but I really enjoyed it.

"It’s been a bit crazy, you don’t really get much time to think about it.

"I moved two weeks before the start of the season, only really had one week training with the team and then went and played at Goodison Park, Everton away and you’re just thinking it’s a bit weird.

“When you’ve been dreaming of it since a little boy when it actually happens you just want to take the opportunity with both hands and that’s what I like to think I’ve done."

That meeting with Hudson-Odoi on Saturday was part of a very special day for Livramento. He had been at Chelsea for ten years before his £5million move to Southampton but had never played a competitive game at his beloved Stamford Bridge.

He had watched plenty as a season ticket holder with his dad and brother sat in the West Stand. All three were there again at the weekend, but Livramento was walking out with Southampton instead of settling down alongside his family.

Southampton lost 3-1 after James Ward-Prowse was sent off, but Livramento had won the penalty which set up a fine contest at 1-1 before the dismissal.

"It was a bit weird but I just enjoyed it that bit more playing against Chelsea and people I have trained against," says Livramento.

"You watch games there and coming through the academy I played a few youth games on the pitch but nothing compares to a full packed out Premier League game, it just felt a bit weird being on the other side.

"When I won the penalty I tried to look and find my dad and brother but I couldn’t see them."

Livramento has shone in Southampton’s biggest games this season. He was their standout player at Stamford Bridge, helped keep a clean sheet at Manchester City and stunned supporters on his home debut against Manchester United, quite a lot for a player who expected to be getting the odd run out in the Carabao Cup.

Ralph Hasenhuttl had different plans, however. The Austrian had been telling people around Southampton that he thought Livramento could become the best player at the club within six months when he joined and has shown real faith in the defender.

"He said he would give me the opportunity to play when we were discussing what was best for me," says Livramento.

"I thought that would be in a few cup games on coming on as a late sub when we’re winning or whatever but he’s just thrown me in and I think it has been a good test for me, not only physically getting up to Premier League level but mentally as well playing in front of huge crowds. It’s been a crazy couple of months."

These dizzying heights have all come off the back of a hugely significant and difficult decision to leave behind the club he supported and spent a decade playing for at youth level.

"It was a hard decision for everyone involved," he says, reflecting on the call to leave Chelsea, where he had a year left on his contract.

"They agreed that it was best for me as well and they’ve always looked after me. I’ll never have a bad word to say about how they’ve treated me growing up and developing me into the player I am today. It’s probably the best academy in the world that anyone would want to go to and develop.

"Everything fell into place and I only had a year left so I felt like it was easy for me to leave at that time."

Chelsea have the option of a £40million buy-back clause as part of the sale to Southampton, a fee which could prove somewhat of a bargain if the teen carries on like this, but that is not something he is considering at the moment.

"Maybe one day but I’m just enjoying my football at the moment at Southampton," he said when asked about the possibility of going back to Chelsea in the future.

"That’s where my head’s at right now. Just trying to pick up as many points as possible and improving individually."

Lee Carsley has now given Livramento, who also qualifies for Portugal through his dad, the chance to shine internationally with England Under-21s.

There was a debut from the bench against Kosovo last month as he joins the long list of right-backs pushing to represent England, another former Chelsea academy player of the year in Reece James among them.

"The quality at right-back that England have at the moment is just ridiculous," says Livramento. "You’ve got to enjoy competition and when you get given any opportunity you’ve got to take it.

"[James] would be a nice path to follow! He is a fantastic player and I always look up to people like him and look at their games and see where I can improve mine and every time I watch him it looks like he keeps improving as well."

Livramento has already shown that he has the potential follow in the footsteps of the likes of James, and many watching on from Stamford Bridge may resent the fact he is not doing just that in Chelsea blue.

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