Marko Grujic has reiterated his desire to become a part of the senior setup at Liverpool once his loan at Hertha Berlin expires this summer, though he's aware of the task in breaking into Jurgen Klopp's "unbelievable team."
The 23-year-old joined Liverpool from Red Star Belgrade in 2016 but struggled to establish his place at Anfield, moving to Hertha on loan two years later for a better chance at first-team minutes.
The Serbia international is a key player at Hertha, and he told Goal's Neil Jones he's working harder than ever to realise his Liverpool goals: "I know it's going to be tough. I'm not stupid. I know that Liverpool right now are an unbelievable team—the best team in the world. So, I know that I have to be at a very high level if I want to have a chance."
Midfield is a critical position for Liverpool and one that's currently flooded with talent. Captain Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho established themselves as the trio of choice last season, but Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and James Milner are each top-class alternatives.
Milner, 34, allayed any talk of an Anfield exit this summer when he signed a new contract until 2022 in December. However, Paul Gorst of the Liverpool Echo said even prior to that announcement that Grujic had little chance of beating the English veteran to a place in the team:
Rather than be jealous of those playing in the positions he covets, Grujic continued to say he looks at those players competing for the same spots as "role models":
"Defending is a big part, because when you look at Liverpool, they defend like hell! Every player is fighting for every inch of the pitch, which is so impressive. Sometimes I get tired just watching them!
"Jordan, Gini, Fab, Milner – they are all huge role models for a player like me. The job they do is so underrated, and their levels are so high. They play with such intensity, every game. That is what I have to aspire to.
"Next season, who knows, hopefully I am ready to jump up with the team. That is what I hope for.”
Grujic made 23 appearances on loan with Hertha last season, and the Bundesliga club paid to extend his temporary stay through the 2019-20 campaign.
The Serb was Klopp's first signing at Anfield and moved to England in January 2016, boasting a reputation as a physically imposing midfield general of sorts.
Grujic has since expanded his game in the Bundesliga, showcasing an increased ability to influence the game in other areas, via BT Sport (UK viewers only):
Almost four years have passed since the player completed that switch from Belgrade, when Klopp stressed the importance of his development:
His contract with Liverpool doesn't expire until 2023, but Grujic still has his work cut out for him in convincing Klopp he belongs with the defending champions of Europe and Premier League leaders, where available places are few and far between.
As for playing in Berlin, Grujic added that he loves his current club: "I have been very lucky in my career to experience some beautiful cities: Belgrade, Liverpool and now Berlin. From the first minute I came to Hertha, I felt very welcome. I am very settled here."
It's likely Hertha, which is 12th in the table, would like to see their loan star remain permanently if Grujic would agree to the move, but that seems unlikely if Klopp gives any indication he has a future on Merseyside.