When Jürgen Klopp first arrived at Anfield in late 2015, many were expecting him to dive straight into the transfer market as he began his quest to put Liverpool Football Club back among Europe’s elite.
The German opted against a big-money first recruit and instead looked at youth, picking out a young midfielder from Red Star Belgrade, Marko Grujić.
The Serbian was an unknown entity to supporters, but someone Klopp was immensely keen on bringing to Merseyside. He spoke personally to the 19-year-old to convince him that Anfield was the right choice for him, despite the youngster’s father being against the move. Assistant manager at the time Željko Buvač even flew out to Belgrade to secure the deal.
So, in early January 2016, Grujić became a Liverpool player and the first of the Klopp era. Unfortunately, we’d have to wait another six months before we’d see the Serbian international in action as part of the transfer meant he had to be immediately loaned back to the Red Star for the remainder of the campaign.
The boss was thrilled to have his man and, when asked about the signing in an interview, he perhaps gave a hint as to how the club would go about honing his skills and building his experience: “He’s young but he has to develop.”
Skip forward four years and the now 24-year-old is still waiting for his opportunity after impressive loan spells at Cardiff City in the Championship and Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin.
Having shown moments of his ability and skill in pre-season matches for the Reds, he’s had to develop his game away from Anfield and, after two years playing first-team football in Germany’s top division, is it time for the big midfielder to finally be given a shot in 2020/21?
With Adam Lallana out of contract and James Milner coming into the latter stages of his career, has Grujić developed enough over the last few seasons to fill that potential void? With over 40 games played in the Bundesliga with eight goals to his name, his physicality and ability in both boxes could be pivotal to Klopp if we are to continue challenging at the very top.
Saying that, he will be walking into the most competitive position in the squad. With Milner, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keïta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones already in the midfield area he will have to work hard to secure a regular starting spot.
Liverpool are reportedly looking for a midfielder and with both Atlético Madrid’s Thomas Partey and Tottenham’s Tanguy Ndombele both linked with potential moves this summer, it’s worth trying a player we already know before splashing the cash on two players who will not come cheap.Embed from Getty Images
As a club we have been in this situation before, albeit under different managers, where we have had young players not given the chance to showcase their potential at first team level. The likes of Luis Alberto and Suso were both given limited game time and went on to thrive at other clubs, something I hope does not happen to Grujić and other promising stars like Harry Wilson and Rhian Brewster.
As mentioned, we have not seen much of the Serbian in a Red shirt but his header against Barcelona in the International Champions Cup at Wembley was hopefully just a small sample of what is yet to come. His pace, followed by the weight and power of the header, gave Claudio Bravo no chance and showcased his potential.
Plenty of players have potential, but it’s what they do next that can define their careers. Playing regularly for two seasons in one of Europe’s top five leagues shows that he is not just an untested youngster we’ll be putting into our squad. His attitude seems to be good and he looks determined to fight for his chance at Anfield, if his Bundesliga performances are anything to go by.
Unfortunately, due to his loan spell abroad, Grujić does not count as one of our homegrown players and, with only 17 non-homegrown players currently allowed, the Serbian may have to fight off some competition for a place in the desirable 25-man squad. He has certainly shown over the last few years that’s he’s worth a punt and at just 24 still has a lot to offer.
With football in England temporarily off the cards it may be worth keeping eyes on Hertha in the Bundesliga as one of our hottest prospects continues to show his talent while eagerly awaiting his Liverpool opportunity, which hopefully will come soon.
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