Serbian international Lazar Markovic became Brendan Rodgers’ fourth signing of the transfer window on Tuesday, making the switch from Portuguese giants Benfica, as the club website revealed.
Though many fans will be rejoicing Markovic’s arrival on Merseyside, some supporters will be asking, “Lazar who?”, and here, we try to answer that very question.
Starting his professional career with Partizan Belgrade in 2011, Markovic quickly demonstrated his capabilities on the big stage despite being in his late teens, and was named in the Serbian SuperLiga’s team of the year two seasons in a row.
That was enough to see Europe’s elite come calling, and in 2013, Markovic put pen to paper with Benfica. One successful season in Portugal later, and the 20-year-old now finds himself in another red shirt.
Signing players with strong reputations abroad is all well and good, but sometimes they just can’t cut it in the Premier League—take Iago Aspas for example.
However, Markovic is simply too perfect for Liverpool to be a flop in the English top flight, as he fits the club and Rodgers’ mould perfectly.
Adaptability is attribute No. 1 that the Reds’ boss looks for in a signing, and the Serbian has it in abundance.
Similar to another young sensation, Raheem Sterling, Markovic can play on either flank, but is also comfortable taking to the No. 10 role.
His pace, trickery and vision make him ideal for Rodgers’ attacking unit, and his countryman Nemanja Matic also believes that he can be one of Europe’s best—per Tom Kundert of the Daily Mirror:
"What can I say about our Markovic? It was excellent playing with this fantastic kid for six months. He has such massive potential that if he changed his attitude in training he could be one of Europe’s best players in his position. But he’s young, he’ll mature, and then nobody will be able to stop him!"
Though having a negative attitude in training is far from desirable in a player, if there was ever a manager that can make a bad boy come good, then it’s Rodgers.
With Luis Suarez departing Anfield, the Liverpool manager will resort back to a 4-3-3 formation—and that will bring the best out of Markovic.
Playing as part of a front three is what makes Markovic so difficult to track. He’s similar to German Thomas Mueller in the sense that he’s so unpredictable as a front man, and Liverpool will benefit from his ability to get in behind teams with ease.
Playing alongside Daniel Sturridge and Sterling in the advanced positions means that even without Suarez, the Reds will still have a potent, lethal attacking trio—not to mention an incredibly fast one.
Anyone that has even been near a pitch that Markovic is on calls him a sensation, and the plaudits get even better than that, with Avram Grant paying him the ultimate compliment—per James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo:
“I can say that apart from Ronaldo and Messi, Markovic is one of the best talents I’ve ever seen at 19 years of age.”
This makes Markovic’s tag as the “Serbian Messi” a little more creditable, but as always with a Premier League signing, physicality is called into question—Sarah Webster of BT Sport, for example:
However, when he played against one of the league’s most physical sides in the Europa League last season, Tottenham Hotspur, he didn’t look anywhere near out of his depth, and guided Benfica past the Londoners with ease.
While some players never live up to their hype, Markovic simply isn’t one of them, and he left Liverpool fans with an exciting message upon his arrival—per the club’s website:
"I am very happy that I have joined such a great club. I hope that I will fulfil the expectations of the supporters, coaches, players and all connected to the club. I have seen what the players are like, I have seen what the supporters are like, and I cannot wait to start playing here."
If the youngster continues to progress at such an astounding rate, then there’s no way he’ll be letting anyone down next season.
It’s going to be incredibly difficult for Rodgers to replace Suarez, but landing Markovic is certainly a step in the right direction. If the Serbian gets a chance to thrive in the Premier League, it could be “Luis who?” on fans’ lips come the end of the campaign.