Liam Millar starts with a confession.
The Alphonso he is referring to, of course, is Alphonso Davies, the Bayern Munich star, and Millar’s international team-mate with Canada. ‘Fonzie,’ to his friends.
Just 19, Davies is already emerging as one of the world’s brightest young talents. He is the poster boy of Canadian football, the great hope in what many feel is the country’s ‘golden generation.’
But back to the foot-race. Davies’ speed, whether from left-back or a more attacking position, is there for the world to see and admire. “Roadrunner” was the term used by his Bayern team-mate Thomas Muller recently, but ask anyone at Liverpool’s academy and they’ll tell you Millar is no slouch either. Over 100 metres, it’d be a hell of a contest.
“We haven’t officially raced yet,” Millar tells Goal. “Every time we go to, one of the coaches tells us to stop. They spoil our fun!
“Fonzie is crazy quick. Sometimes in training we’d be up against each other and it was always a good battle. Sometimes I would go by him, so I used to think maybe I could compete with him. I always thought it would be a close race and maybe he would just win, something like that?
“Now? I’m kinda like…I think he might smoke me! Don’t tell him I said that!”
Millar first met Davies in September 2018, when Canada took on the US Virgin Islands in a CONCACAF Nations League game in Florida.
“I played at right-back and Alphonso played at left-back,” he says. “The coach, John Herdman, wanted an attacking team so he put his fastest players at full-back and, to be honest, I felt bad for the US Virgin Islands. We destroyed them. It was kind of like…unfair, you know?”
On the pitch, the youngsters impressed albeit against lowly opposition. Off the field, meanwhile, an instant friendship was formed.
“We sort of said to each other ‘You and I are going to be around for a long time, so we might as well get to know each other,'” Millar says.
“That was the first time we’d met, but we just became good friends straight away.
“Fonzie is a real outgoing guy. He’s just one of those guys who can talk to anyone and make them laugh, you know? He’s not cocky, there’s no bad side to him, he’s just a fun guy with a real outgoing personality.
“I spoke to him around the time he joined Bayern. He would ask me if I found it tough moving away. I think it helped him that he had someone he could relate to, you know? I moved to England when I was 13, so he could see that everything was going to be OK.”
Millar adds: “Everyone in Canada is so happy for him. He’s a crazy player, and he’s doing so well.
“And, for me personally, it drives me on. I want to get to that level, to be on the same page as him. When I see him doing what he’s doing, lighting up the Bundesliga and the Champions League, it pushes me to keep improving.
"I love reading about him and Jonathan David [the free-scoring Gent striker] but it motivates me. I want them to be writing about me as well.”
Millar admits his own club career is still to truly take off. He joined Liverpool in 2016 having spent three years at Fulham, where he had been spotted by chance as a 13-year-old playing in a youth tournament in Keele, near Stoke.
A regular goalscorer at Under-18 and U23 level, he gained his first professional experience during two loan spells with Kilmarnock in Scotland and, in February, made his ‘senior’ Liverpool debut as part of an U23s side against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup.
“It was a proud moment for me and my family,” he says. “To be the first Canadian to play for Liverpool, it was a big thing, something I’ll never forget.”
At international level, his reputation is growing. With eight senior caps, he is very much a part of Canada’s bright future under Herdman.
Together with Davies, David and more experienced players such as Scott Arfield, Junior Hoilett, Atiba Hutchinson, Jonathan Osorio and Doneil Henry, Millar is part of a team which harbours realistic ambitions of becoming the first Canada side to qualify for a World Cup since 1986.
“If any generation is going to get us to a World Cup, it’s this one,” Millar says. “We have a lot of really good players.
“We all want to reach a World Cup. For a Canada team to do that, it’s the dream.
“We fancy our chances, 100 per cent. I honestly think we are easily in the top three in CONCACAF, and I know I sound biased but I don’t think the US are much better than us. We beat them 2-0 last year, and then we played them away from home, dominated the game but lost badly. They took their chances.
“It’s very, very possible for us to qualify for the next World Cup and then after that we are obviously hosts for 2026.
“But our goal is to qualify for 2022. That way, we can say we didn’t get any freebies.”