IT IS DIFFICULT to pinpoint exactly when it started. PHILIP GREENE certainly cannot put his finger on it; the moment when the global transfer market shifted just enough towards the very richest clubs in the world that the rest (and unfortunately Liverpool are now part of that grouping) had to start taking punts on potential.
Maybe it was with Torres. When Rafa decided to put 26 million eggs in the basket of a lank-haired nino from Madrid. Perhaps that was the point at which Liverpool had to start taking risks on players with promise, players who the richest clubs may have monitored but were not ready to snap up just yet.
Whenever it actually started, this new world order does not show any signs of slowing down. Since Torres, we’ve seen, amongst others, Suarez (bypassed by the very best due to his questionable temper) and Coutinho come in to the club as rough, unfinished products and develop and grow into something resembling a fulfilment of their potential. This summer has seen a similar signing in Roberto Firmino, brought in from Hoffenheim for around £29m. The Brazilian attracted many admiring glances from clubs across Europe but ultimately, Liverpool got their man as the very biggest teams looked elsewhere.
Amidst all the rebuilding of last summer, another such deal for a potential star was struck. Again, Liverpool paid what seemed quite a lot of money (£20m) for a then 20 year old Serbian called Lazar Markovic. Signed from Benfica after one season, Markovic had been mentioned in the same breath as Europe’s biggest clubs, including Barcelona, but only Liverpool coughed up the cash needed to land him.
In what could be best described as a fitful season, Markovic came in and out of the starting eleven, making eleven starts in the league and coming off the bench a further eight times. Tactical flexibility saw him play in a variety of positions (most consistently at wing back) and while his malleability helped him stay in Brendan Rodgers’s plans, it is doubtful that it helped him feel settled in his first season at Anfield.
Best known as a tricky winger or an attacking, playmaking number 10, Markovic actually reaped most reward in the unfamiliar surrounds of wing back and showed fleeting glimpses of the talent that saw him earn a place in Partizan Belgrade’s first team at just 17 and that persuaded Benfica to part with €9m for his services in 2013. While he only scored twice and assisted once in the league last season, on his best days he showed an attacking intent and incision which only bodes well for the future.
After the disappointing end to last season (and indeed during the lowest moments during it) a less than favourable light was shone upon the new arrivals into the squad. Emre Can was spared a savaging (because, well, you know, he’s Emre Can and pretty bloody good) but every other one of last summer’s signings was handed part of the blame.
It seemed to slip people’s minds that Markovic was a 21 year old who, after one season in Portugal, relocated to the most physically demanding league in Europe to a side rebuilding after the loss of their star. As stop-start as his season was, Markovic was not bought as the finished product. He was, as many of Liverpool’s signings are becoming, bought for what he might turn out to be. To have any hope of landing world class talents, Liverpool have had to move 18 months earlier than most others would have for Markovic. And because he was living out his development in the bright lights of the Premier League, he came in for criticism.
This second season for Markovic will be a big one. One cannot imagine him having to line up as a wing back too often this season and it can be reasonably accepted that he will feature far more often in the positions he thrives most in.
He has developed a defensive edge over the course of his time with Liverpool that would put one in mind of Philippe Coutinho. Both players share an unexpected relish for a tackle and have become quite adept at acting almost as “attacking midfield stoppers”, breaking up counterattacks almost as they form.
The arrival of Christian Benteke could be a significant moment for Markovic. Often last season, Markovic played with Raheem Sterling as his striker. While Sterling did rather well as a lone striker, his style did not greatly suit what Markovic was best at.
The Serbian plays a large number of short passes along the ground into his striker’s feet. Sterling thrived on running onto ball in behind players to make the most of his pace. With Benteke expected to lead Liverpool’s line for at least the start of the season, one can imagine these short passes to feet suiting the style of the Belgian to a greater degree, as his superior hold-up play should bring about more options around the box for attacks to unfold. Markovic can expect more ball to come back to him than had been the case with Sterling, who was more likely to take on his man than lay the ball off to an overlapping runner. This possibility of these interchanging passes will give Markovic the option of getting further forward than had been the case last season, when the spaces he would most like to attack were already occupied.
Firmino’s arrival may mean that Lazar Markovic is again fighting a losing battle to become an out and out starter for this Liverpool team but the opportunity to play in his more favoured positions with a striker who better suits his own strengths should see this immensely talented young player prosper this year. His tactical flexibility will keep him in his manager’s thoughts and he will hope that he can take his chances to shine when they are presented.
Last summer Liverpool did not spend £20m on a finished product. If Markovic had been the finished product, the truth is he would not now be at Anfield as he would have been picked up by Chelsea or Barcelona, just two of the teams linked with the Serb before his arrival on Merseyside. Liverpool made an investment, as they must due to their relative position in the food chain, in the potential of Markovic. They moved early to secure the player he will hopefully become. Last season, we saw the fitful but encouraging development of a waif-like attacking midfielder into something with a harder edge, a more fully rounded and more tactically sound player. All of this while largely playing out of position in fits and starts. This season, again do not look for the finished product. Instead look for the further development of one of Europe’s most exciting young attackers playing in a system which we can hope will bring out his best.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
Like The Anfield Wrap on Facebook
Agree. I think he’s about right where he is expected to be. I see a lot of hand wringing about LAZAR on the internet but he is very young and he is progressing at a good pace. He could be sent out on loan for more playing time but I think he will get enough to continue his progression-as long as he is happy with that rate of progression.
Agree re Markovics potential ability but I dont see him featuring much. He seems to be an easy target for Rodgers in terms of leaving out of the squad or being hauled off early. If last season was tough for him then this season sees him behind ibe, firmino, coutihno, lallana, benteke, ings and possibly origi for a spot in the front line. Hes never been given a fair run in his natural position and ive seen nothing from preseason to suggest rodgers will operate any differently with him. For whatever reason rodgers does this with players, he has his underperforming favourites or he plays people out of position. Its ultimately going to end up getting him the sack. Just wait until we see allen getting games ahead of can
Doesn’t the fact tha Chelsea and Barcelona were also interested in Markovic before he signed for us indicate that we are not behaving differently from the supposed elite? Most of the big clubs are also trying to get players of supreme potential as back-ups to their first team: Patrick Roberts just signed for Manchester City for 10 million pounds. Occasionally these players will quite quickly prove themselves worthy of a first team place. Emre Can for instance was bought as a back-up that we would slowly develop but showed enough when called upon to keep his place. It hasn’t worked out for Markovic yet but hopefully he’ll be given some chance to play this year, possibly on a loan.
i agree. i have tracked lazar ever since his name was first linked with liverpool. and in the past he is easily a more AMCR/L than a R/LWB. i have noticed last year at the start of the season it took him almost 15min to get the feel/tempo of the game so a bringing in on the 75th minute is a waste. but as the season went on that time got less. benteke would be more his style of striker to link with. just needs to be A) played in his best position, B) be patient with the game time he gets this year. C) stay fit D) have some luck.
if he manages to play 20games this year, it will be a win for him. if he scores 1 goal, but can assist 10, it will be a win. his role should be the creative/supply player on either wings, while keeping tabs on the opposite LB/RB.
If given the right opportunities, Markovic could become a great player. The problem is that Brendan Rodgers has dug himself into such a massive hole (not helped by Sturridge’s injuries), that he needs to hit the ground running in all competitions or he’s a goner.
That means that opportunities to develop players will be extremely limited if they themselves don’t hit the ground running. Markovic looked excellent in pre-season in the number 10 role, but if (when) he’s moved back out wide if he starts badly he could be treated like Luis Alberto or Tiago Ilori which would be a waste.
Klopp will more than likely take over at some point, and will be able to develop our younger talents due to the time he’ll be afford as a new manager.
We had just finished above Chelsea in the league last season and although they likely could have offered greater wages if Markovic had been a more attractive prospect, LFC would have had the leverage to convince him that he had the greater opportunity to flourish at LFC, rather than sitting on the bench behind Hazard, Willian & Oscar.
I’m tired of the defeatist inferiority complex so prevalent around LFC in recent years.
Guy on Twitter called Marco Lopes. Supports Benfica and Liverpool. Knows what he’s talking about. Was incredibly excited when we signed Lazar. Now thinks he needs to go because the manager doesn’t know how to use him and has crippled his confidence.
Markovic has gone backwards. There is no evidence he’s developed in any facet of his game so when people talk about him developing slowly I don’t know what they’re talking about. He’s not developed, slowly or otherwise.
Its funny when people use the “defensive edge” argument. Maybe they didn’t watch him for Benfica at all. But even in the video posted above there are plenty of clips of him being hungry to chase back and showing the appetite to put his foot in. This is not something that has been installed in him by Rodgers, or something he’s got better at.
I watched him play against Porto two years ago in a massive league match between the top 2. It was after Eusebio had died. Lazar, wearing 50, had a swagger that reminded me of Ronaldo and was the best player on the pitch. Looked cheeky and was willing to try different things on the ball but worked hard off it. They won 2-0.
He’s played his best football as a central second striker or on the left of an attacking 3. So naturally, we played him at wing back. Then when he didnt perform, he was sub’d time and again, just to make sure the 20 year old was more uncomfortable in new, strange surroundings. He’s a shell of the player I and many others witnessed in Portugal. And it has to be said his handling by the manager has bordered on disgraceful. Its such a shame.
I hope he can recover. I hope he is played in a position he favours regularly so he can regain confidence and learn properly. But I doubt it.
Whats next? Shunted in and out of the team in different positions leading to indifferent performances leading to a loan deal next summer or sold back to Benfica.
Hi again, haha.
I’m not disagreeing with any of that simply because I can’t be bothered.
I think he’s clearly been used badly and had his confidence knocked
But, it’s no secret he’s suffered from homesickness.
Maybe that’s played a bigger part in his disappointing season than Rodgers.
Who can say for sure.
I’ve got no sympathy. When I was his age I was in Europe with no money and no home and lived like that for nearly a decade, living off my wits.
He’s got every comfort going. There’s no need for a grown man to be struggling from being homesick. I think the answer lies with him, not Rodgers (although he hasn’t helped him). He simply needs to toughen up.
Are you sure you aren’t disagreeing with any of it because you can’t? You say the answer lies with Lazar and not Rodgers – but admit he’s been used badly. So you expect a 20 year old foreign player in his first year in the EPL and in a struggling team (Rodgers fault – he’s the manager) to be used badly and still perform well? Strange.
Homesickness tends to be rumoured of every foreign footballer who has a poor first season. Ive no doubt it is the case for some, like Manquillo, but nowhere near all. I never really heard it used legitimately for Markovic and when I did hear someone speculate I thought it stupid. Why?
I mean, which home is he missing? Is it the one in Cacak? Or the one in Belgrade? Or the one in Lisbon? The young man has moved from a smaller city to a major city, then moved from Serbia to Portugal and had no issues at all performing to a better standard every time. He then comes to us, starts well (often something people forget) but as his chances are limited, as he is moved into different positions and as he is scapegoated at half time every time he did start, his performances suffered.
Id he did/does suffer from homesickness, I wouldn’t be as dismissive as you are being. It is a legitimate mental illness, much like depression. Yes, you may have coped with tougher circumstances better than he, but we are all different and if he was told to toughen up that will likely hinder him, not help.
It was Melissa Reddy who said he suffers from homesickness. I fully believe her word on it because she has more access than us.
I can see in his body language he’s weak. If I was put in defence, in goal or up front for Liverpool I’d be giving more than he appears to.
I know he’s been used badly but yes, I do expect him to perform better. Without doubt. The PL is tough but he has to toughen up in response. If he can’t then he won’t make it at Liverpool regardless of the manger is.
My point is, you can’t blame Rodgers for every single thing that goes wrong at the club. I think Markovic’s problems lies with him not Rodgers.
My article on Lazar is here: http://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2015/07/lazars-quest-markovic-start-firing-liverpool/
Deals with everything from questions over positioning to needing time to settle.
Padraig, because he has moved so much at such a young age doesn’t mean he is immune from periods of homesickness.
Just read it again. In fairness, it makes far more sense than mine and Padraig’s comments. I think I may I have backed myself into a corner trying to make the point it wasn’t Rodgers fault that he disappointed. I’m sure he does need to toughen up a little for the PL but on reflection the main point is he needs a bit of time to settle. It’s just ridiculous to write someone off after less than 20 league games. Unlike, Padraig, I expect him to improve.
Bang on the money for me, id agree with all of that. Its tough to watch such a young talented player be used in the manner that he has. Half chances here and there, never getting a run in the position he was bought for and always the first player substituted or dropped no matter how hes performed.
I disagree. I find it demeans club and player to label Lazar as merely “a punt”.
He was the most decorated player in the squad under 34 last season.
He grew into the side and looked our most dangerous and positive player for first third of last season. I haven’t seen a player who could withstand challenges and emerge with the ball from packed areas like he did for a long time. He looked like a top player. He looked like he enjoyed being a top player.
But some players need stability. Some players need to know their role in a team. Some players need to play to reach their top form.
By the final third of the season he looked lost, dazed and confused. Too many positions. Too many questions about role in squad. Too many systems to understand and consider.
“I used to just play football and I was pretty fucking good at it.”
I think he’s a top player. Two seasons ago he would have excelled in an interchanging front three and could have been the difference. I know it’s a pipe dream, but I’d play him behind Benteke as a partner with Coutinho. The lad can play and he’s got goals. Wasted stuck out wide. Wasted at full-back. Wasted on the bench.
The problem is and it’s the same with Lalanna, when you’ve played for a club and you’re the first name on the team sheet, you’re integral to everything and part of your make-up is playing every game, it’s very hard to become and perform as a “squad player”. It’s a transition no player must mentally prepare for.
Plus, I’ve never seen a player enjoy a goal more in front of the Kop than his finish against Spurs. “This is me. This is where I play. This is what I do.”
When Markovic came in Rodgers said he was one for the future, so we should not be too concerned about the lack of impact last year. This year we should expect more from him and he will need to be ready to take his chances, because other players like Ibe, who may have been behind Markovic at the start of the last season look ready to take their chances.
For me, too many people are ready to blame the manager for mishandling players like Markovic. He was always going to struggle to get game time in in a front 3 or 4 this season, with the time needed to adapt to new club and new league. Once we dropped in the the Europa League, I think that would have been his opportunity, but our abject performances and his unfair red card put paid to that.
He got game time a wing back, and looked useful there. The bleating that goes on about these poor delicate soles being played out of position is nonsense. Wing back is an attacking role the way Liverpool were set up and Markovic played well there on a number of occasions. When Liverpool were playing poorly and Rodgers felt the need to change the set up, Markovic was always going to be the player likely to be pulled in switch to 4 at the back, as Moreno or Johnson would simply slide back to orthodox full back. This might not have done Markovic’s confidence any good, but football is a tough game and he will need to deal with it. In any case I would imagine Rodgers will have put an arm around him after the game and explained the reasons for any change. Markovic has certainly never been “thrown under a bus” as some people would have it. (Presumably the same bus they think went over Mario, Marsh and Pascoe)
People just need to let the manager get on and manage as he sees fit. Sometimes this will not get the best out of an individual player and might hamper their development, but it has to be about the team not one player. Those who don’t hold Rodgers in high regard will see it as a fault with the manager. Van Gaal playing Ashley Young at left wing back, or Mourinho failing to get the best from Salah, Quadrado, De Bruyne etc. would not warrant a criticism from them, because they hold those managers in higher regard. (Confirmation bias).
This season, I doubt we will see Markovic asked to play as wing back, as we are clearly going to be set up with 4 at the back. His opportunities will likely come as a wide forward or perhaps occasionally behind the striker. I doubt he will start many league games unless he has proved himself in Europe, or from the bench. The opportunity will be there for him, but he will need to work hard to take it.
“People just need to let the manager get on and manage as he sees fit. Sometimes this will not get the best out of an individual player and might hamper their development, but it has to be about the team not one player. Those who don’t hold Rodgers in high regard will see it as a fault with the manager.”
If a manager manages the squad and particular players in such a way as to “not get the best out” him/them and it results in “hamper[ing] his[/their] development” then any person who is rational and objective “will see it as a fault with the manager”.
It’s basic logic. It’s not a matter of preference for or against a particular manager. That, precisely that, getting the most out of the available personnel, without hampering their development (qua footballers), is what the job is about. If a manager screws that up, it _IS_ a fault of his.
Unless a manager wins a League title or major European trophy, any failure on his part to get the most out of the available players and, at the very least, not hampering their development as footballers is evidence of ‘fault’, a problem, an issue with that manager.
The job of the manager is to get the best out of his players. Can’t be arsed going into Rodgers’ failures with Balotelli, Sterling, Lambert, Moreno etc, but on Lazar its cut and dry.
You didn’t even mention him constantly being substituted regardless of how effective he was. You say Rodgers told us not to worry about Lazar’s lack of impact and he was one for the future who he will develop. But he didn’t develop him! He made him go backwards.
And there is a reason players have positions on a football pitch. There are incredibly few players, no matter how “tough” or how good they are, who can play in multiple positions at a young age. There are no 20 year olds who have done it to a high standard in a foriegn league in their first year. None. At such a high level like the premier league (compared to Sunday league) there is a monumental difference between right back and right midfield in a basic 4-4-2. So how big is the difference between central second striker in a 4-3-3 and right wing back in a 3-5-2 at an elite level?
It takes years to learn a position in any formation. Mucking about a kid in his first year in England, who may or may not be homesick, moving him from position to position, from formation to formation, then subbing him at half time almost every time he plays, was unacceptable.
And your point on other managers is nonsense as well. Not only would I and others criticise them for the things you mentioned – if we were here to talk about United or Chelsea – but there are also massive differences between LVG/Mourinho and Brendan:
(a) they achieved their season objectives while Rodgers did not
(b) they are proven winners who have shown they know what it takes to win leagues and be a success in Europe, while Rodgers has not
(c) Young performed well overall (so LVG fulfilled the remit of getting the best from him) and wasn’t subbed all the time even when he didn’t. The three Chelsea lads weren’t great and two were moved on. But they weren’t handled badly – they played in the positions they were bought for! And the 27 year old Cuadrado (not 20) was usually brought on, not off, meaning his confidence didn’t take a battering while he was trying to get used to a new league.
Just as you say some will use whatever they can to batter Rodgers, your post proves some will refuse to criticise him no matter how obvious his failings. And it doesn’t get more obvious in his handling of Markovic. Even Rodgers biggest advocates, such as the female version of James Pearce who writes for this very site, recognise Rodgers should have used him better.
I’m beginning see the point you make about people absolving one party of all guilt/responsiblity and lumping it all on the other. People just go so far with it one way or the other. People will say its all Markovics fault because “He’s just not good enough” or “Rodgers has tossed him under the bus”. What some refuse to see is that everyone failed time after time after time last season. Every single one. Even golden boy Coutinho, no matter how enjoyable it was to see him pull off a lane change through opposition midfields, even he was wouldn’t really warrant much more than a 6/10 rating for last season if you take the season as a whole.
People love to talk about class,facts, integrity and rationalizing but as soon as it suits them all that goes out the window and they start going to the ends of the Earth to defend one party and crucify the other and are surprised when someone else does vice versa. Markovic, Lambert, Balotelli, Borini all plus whoever else I’ve forgotten allgot the short end of the stick.
Look at it this way, Lovren got more playing time than Balotelli, Borini and Lambert combined, now tell me again about how much of a chance these guys got. Then look at Rodgers, he was under a ton of pressure, he decided to go back to something that worked for him in the past, pace up front. It was what he felt he needed to do, I don’t think it was his intention to screw his players.
Sidenote: People been saying “Lambert would have got so many goals if he got all the chances Balo got. He should have our sympathy” the playing time he got was almost identical to the playing time Balotelli got. Again, facts mean nothing when people have an agenda.