LIFE has changed for Jesus Fernandez Saez since the last time he lined up against Young Boys.
Back in September, the young attacker known as Suso walked out at the Stade de Suisse after being handed his long-awaited Liverpool debut by Brendan Rodgers in the Europa League.
The Spanish teenager’s impressive display in a thrilling 5-3 win launched his Anfield career. Three days later he came off the bench against Manchester United to make his Premier League bow.
His composure was as striking as his technical ability and over the past two months he has established himself as a first team regular.
Suso’s progress was rewarded with a new contract in October and earlier this month he made his first appearance for Spain Under-21s against France.
It’s been a meteoric rise for the youngster who celebrated his 19th birthday on Monday.
“I feel like I am dreaming right now,” said Suso, who is expected to start at Anfield tonight.
“I couldn’t have believed this would all happen in such a short period.
“Things have happened really quick for me. From being with the reserves, to playing for the first team in the Europa League and then playing in the Premier League.
“I am playing for the first team every game now and lining up with massive players every week – it’s been brilliant.
“To get called up by Spain Under-21s was also special but the most important thing for me that has happened was signing the new contract.
“It means I’ll be here for this season and two more after that. I always wanted to stay here and play for this club for a long time. Signing the contract was a great moment for me.
“This has been the best year ever for me so far. I hope it keeps going like this.”
Suso arrived at Liverpool in 2010 after being snapped up by Rafa Benitez from his hometown club Cadiz.
After two years spent honing his talents with the Academy and reserve sides, he was promoted to the first team squad this summer after Rodgers took him on the pre-season tour of North America.
Suso admits he owes a debt of gratitude to the Northern Irishman, who has shown such faith in youth.
Fellow teenagers Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom have also become mainstays in Rodgers’ side.
“I was 16 when I first signed for Liverpool and I knew I had to improve,” said Suso (right).
“I was working really hard when I was with the reserves and I knew that if I kept going then a chance would come. Finally, it came for me and I had to be ready.
“It’s easy for managers to put youngsters in just the League Cup or the Europa League. But what Brendan has done here is just unbelievable.
“It’s incredible that three players so young are playing regularly in the Premier League side.
“Andre, Raheem and myself all get on well. We are a similar age and we are always talking, trying to help each other.
“All three of us have a lot to thank Brendan for. He has given us a chance and then we have shown him that we can play – that we can perform at this level.
“The manager’s style of play suits me and that has made it easier for me. It’s similar to the Spanish way of playing – short passes and always trying to keep the ball. We always try to play, even from the keeper.”
Nothing seems to faze Suso, who has proved equally at home out wide or through the centre.
His disappointment at being substituted for Jordan Henderson before half-time in last Saturday’s 3-0 league win over Wigan at Anfield was quickly dispelled by his manager’s explanation.
“I thought I was playing well and at half-time Brendan said taking me off was nothing to do with how I was playing,” he said.
“He just felt he needed to change the system. I was happy we won the game – that was the most important thing.
“I have always been best playing in the middle in that No 10 role. But I can also do it playing out on the wing, coming inside.
“Both positions are really good for me. I am not bothered where I play, I just want to play.”
Suso will get that opportunity tonight as he starts a home European match for the first time.
Victory will secure the Reds’ place in the knockout stages with a game to spare if Udinese fail to beat Anzhi in Moscow.
“When you walk out to play at Anfield and hear the fans sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ it’s one of the best feelings,” he added.
“I feel very lucky to play matches there and I don’t really get nervous. All I want to do is play football. I trust myself and I’ve got belief in my own ability. I have happy memories of the first game against Young Boys as it was my debut. We won 5-3 and if we can beat them again then we should be through.”