Liverpool fans probably remember Lazar Markovic as the £20 million buy, who enlightened the “Stadium of Light’’ with his scissor-kick to give Liverpool the winner against Sunderland. Gamers also can brand him as the guy who had same potential as Lionel Messi in FIFA 14. But, what happened to the promising young winger? Does he have a future in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool?
At the inception of Transfer Window prior to 2014-15 season, the Serbian international was bought from Benfica for £20 million, making him the eighth most expensive player in the history of Liverpool. With domestic treble win for Benfica and an impressive record of 21 goals and 21 assists from 114 appearances under his belt, he oozed confidence.
Lazar Markovic is blessed with express pace, is extremely dangerous when opponents leave him any space. His blazing counter attacking runs and ability to be a baller when given the ball in space, make him a dangerous customer. Basically, Lazar is a winger, also a trequartista and versatile enough to play anywhere in the forward line.
After initial hiccup due to injuries, Lazar initially failed to live up to his potential and was benched after some patchy displays. After a dismal start of 2014-15 campaign, Pep Ljinder’s brain-child, the 3-4-2-1 formation of 3 ball playing centre-halves, 2 central midfielders, 2 wing-backs, 2 central attacking midfielders and 1 false number 9, redeemed Liverpool’s season and brought a new lease of life in Lazar’s Liverpool career. Then manager Brendan Rodgers deployed Markovic as the right wing-back, allowing him to surge forward in attacking and tracking back to defend.
Markovic proved his mettle with some fantastic displays. Scored 3 crucial goals in Bournemouth, Sunderland and Tottenham matches to hand Liverpool victories. But, at such young age of early 20, Lazar could not cope up with the pressure of such unfamiliar position in such competitive English Premier League. Inexperienced in defending, his defensive errors and horrible timing of tackles cost Liverpool dearly and he played his last game in a Liverpool shirt for the season in the FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa, in which he was poor again.
Another huge let down was Markovic’s poor finishing. He missed some sitters throughout the season with somewhat schoolboy finishing. One thing was surprising. In pre-season matches, Lazar thrived in behind the striker role. He loved using the space between the lines, did not use the through balls much in central parts of the pitch, but mostly on the right. He used to run at defenders and tried to overrun them and to drag central defenders to the right flank, bringing other midfielders into the play in the danger zone centrally. But, Rodgers never tried him as number 10 in any competitive match.
The manager and the club decided to loan him to Turkish giants Fenerbahce for Markovic’s development, as he was expected to get regular starts there. “Nobody explained to me what was going on or what his plans were, so I decided to leave,” said Lazar. In Fenerbahce, Marko was deployed as a right winger. In Turkey loan spell, he did not set the scene ablaze, but showed sparks of his calibre, scored 2 goals from 20 appearances, before his hamstring injury cut his season short. His performance against Scottish Champions Celtic is the highlight of his loan spell.
Lazar Markovic came to Melwood, days before Europa Final, to discuss his Liverpool future with manager Jurgen Klopp. Klopp has said that Lazar has full pre-season to prove himself. Watching young potentials become big stars under Klopp through the years, one can safely say Klopp can turn Markovic in a goal-scoring winger. Lazar will be perfect to Klopp’s counter-pressing game and his willingness to defend, would certainly please Klopp.
On Marko’s Liverpool future, Klopp said in press conference, “I will say at the start of pre-season, ‘Welcome, and then it’s up to you’. That is how it is in football, it is a long pre-season and if he wants to come back to Liverpool on July 2, then [he is] welcome. We are short on wingers. Everybody who is involved in pre-season can have a part to play.”
Coutinho is successfully being deployed as inverted winger on the left flank and Firmino is playing as the number 10. So, Lazar can continue being the right winger. It was for everyone to see how Klopp transformed Origi’s game and bulked him up physically. The German can also work wonders on Lazar. From an injury-prone erratic winger, he can also become a goal-scoring wide forward under Klopp.
Marko’s speed, dribbling ability can see him play the Kuba Blaszczykowski role in the right flank. Klopp want his team to press and defend in three banks – Lazar can instigate that from the right like his wing-back days. Marko’s narrow natural positioning in tandem with other advanced midfielders, ability to sit in inside channels to keep the five-man midfield shape, his ability to quickly turn and head upfield when possession won, intricate passes to evade initial press, dribbling skill up top and quick transitions can make him a lethal Klopp weapon.
‘Jurgen Boss Tha Klopp’ is willing to give him chance, which he will get in pre-season matches. If he performs, he stays, or else, another Turkish season is on the cards.
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