Liverpool midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai is happy to be compared to Steven Gerrard but is determined to succeed at Anfield playing his own way.
In just a handful of matches since arriving in a £60million move from RB Leipzig in the summer the 23-year-old Hungary captain has become an instant fan favourite.
His boundless energy and unwavering work-rate immediately resonated with supporters who had become concerned about an ageing and lacklustre midfield in last season’s disappointing campaign.
But throw in his talent on the ball, his vision for a pass and an eye for goal and it is understandable to see why there were murmurings about ‘the new Gerrard’.
If his debut goal against Aston Villa in September – a left-footed drive from the edge of the area – was good, the blistering strike against Leicester in the Carabao Cup had all the echoes of the man whose number eight shirt he now wears.
“I want to do my own way but of course it feels good if they say I am the new Steven Gerrard,” Szoboszlai told the PA news agency at a session of the Nike Game On initiative which, in conjunction with the LFC Foundation, has provided more than 8,000 local schoolchildren with access to a range of sports over the last three years.
“I have a tattoo from Steven Gerrard what he said a long time ago,” he added. The quote attributed to Gerrard, which Szoboszlai has inked in Hungarian, is ‘Talent is a blessing from God, but without incredible will and humility, it is worthless’.
“It’s nice to have the number eight shirt because really great players played in it. I just want to continue.
“But I just want to be myself and if I can get that big in this club like he was I’ll be really happy.”
When Liverpool triggered the Hungarian’s release clause to sign him from Leipzig in July there were eyebrows raised about the fee.
However, manager Jurgen Klopp and his scouting team had no doubts bringing in one of the most talented midfielders in the Bundesliga and youthful captain of his country bore little risk.
It may not be entirely accurate to say Szoboszlai has single-handedly revitalised Liverpool’s midfield in just a couple of months but with fellow new arrival, Argentinian World Cup winner Alexis MacAllister, hamstrung by having to play an unfamiliar defensive midfield role, there is little doubt who has made the biggest impact.
Growing up, the Hungarian idolised Cristiano Ronaldo – not for his talent but his mentality, and it is easy to see that reflected in his performances so far.
Asked where he gets his energy and drive from, Szoboszlai added: “Because I want to win.
“Even if we are in front I don’t want to concede any goals, that’s why I run. If we are behind I want to score goals, that’s why I run. It is always the reason why you have to run.”
Liverpool have been crying out for a goalscoring midfielder but the 23-year-old sees a bigger picture.
“If I have to score I am going to score. If I have to assist I am going to assist. If I have to run all around the pitch I will run all around the pitch,” he said ahead of Sunday’s visit of Nottingham Forest.
“I am here to help the team, I am not here to reach something alone. I want to win trophies, I want to win everything and make us proud and make the fans proud and put Liverpool back again where they deserve to be.
“I can improve in everything. I am not a finished player. Of course I can do everything almost but always you can be better and always you have to think like this.
“If you think this is your best prime, it is not. I can do even better.
“If I would come with any worries then it would not go like this. I came here like ‘I can do it’ – and I am doing it.
“But I don’t say ‘I did it’ because I didn’t. It’s really early to say that. I’m doing it and hopefully I can do it even more and for longer.”
Of all his many qualities it is Szoboszlai’s self-belief and confidence which stands out.
Asked about his ambitions for this season, he said: “I want to win everything. It is never easy but no-one will ask you how it feels to be second.
“This is how I think. Hopefully everyone thinks like this.
“We have to work hard. When the players (the likes of the experienced Jordan Henderson and Fabinho) left no-one was expecting how we started, how quickly we got to know each other and how well it goes.
“We are there for each other. We are a team.”
:: In the first three years of the Game On programme, funded by Nike and delivered by the LFC Foundation, more than 8,000 local children aged between seven and 12 and 46 grassroots sports clubs have been engaged with coaching delivered in 15 different sports.