Profile on Lazar Markovic

Liverpool had been monitoring Serbian winger Lazar Marković for a while. Even though his country’s failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals meant that nothing was likely to happen until that tournament was in its final stages while the eyes of the world were focused on Brazil, it wasn’t a big surprise when his signing was confirmed despite other clubs also showing an interest. The fourth major signing of the summer after Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Emre Can was further proof of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers’ intention of strengthening his squad considerably as he prepared for the club’s first Champions League matches since the 2009/10 season.

Despite having only passed his 20th birthday as recently as March, the winger already has valuable experience of UEFA matches having played in five of Benfica’s six Champions League Group C matches in the 2013/14 season and then playing a part in all eight of the Portuguese club’s matches after the Lisbon club dropped down into the Europa League. Marković was bizarrely ruled out of Benfica’s second successive appearance in the Europa League final. As the Eagles desperately tried to protect a narrow 2-1 aggregate lead in the second leg of their semi-final against Juventus in Turin the Serbian was sent on as a late substitute with time running out but was almost immediately sent off for fighting with Mirko Vučinić, an unused substitute for the home team. This dismissal by English referee Mark Clattenburg ended Lazar’s chances of playing in the final, which also ended in defeat like the previous season.

Lazar Marković was born in the town of Čačak only a couple of years after Yugoslavia had been broken up into different countries, one of which was Serbia. Čačak is situated about 90 miles south of Belgrade, which became Serbia’s capital city just as it had been the capital city of the former Yugoslavia. As a youngster Lazar was connected to a club in the town of his birth, Borac Čačak, but as his teenage years approached he moved on to the Partizan club in the capital. Partizan nurtured him carefully but he made swift progress through the club’s junior ranks until he was given his first-team debut as a 17-year-old in the final match of the 2010/11 season. By the end of the following season he had been appearing regularly in the Serbian SuperLiga helping his club to retain the domestic championship they had won in 2011 and then win it again in 2013.

Even in one of Europe’s less well-known football countries, there is inevitably interest from other countries in the young men who have been instrumental in any club’s domestic success. In the summer of 2013 Marković, normally described as a winger but who seems to cope competently being part of any forward formation, was heavily linked with English Premier League club Chelsea with the rumour being that Chelsea would then loan him out to Benfica. Concerned that they might only be able to use his talents for a limited period Benfica immediately signed the player up for five years, a contract that was due to expire at the end of June 2018. As with so many footballers’ contracts, a player has chosen to move on with the bulk of his contract still intact. Having adapted so well and so quickly with the move from Serbia to Portugal, there is no reason to think that he will not also quickly adapt to life in England and become a valuable member of a squad that will again be fighting for honours on four different fronts.

Avram Grant, once boss at Chelsea and Markovic's former manager at Partizan Belgrade is a big fan of the boy. “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,” Grant said. Benfica's Director of football and Portugal legend, Rui Costa, sings also Markovic's praises: “Markovic is a huge talent and I believe his speed and skills can make a difference in the Premier League. He’s not a physical player, but he has the ability and the flexibility to escape defenders easily. He is also very cold blooded when he’s in one to one and he’s not afraid on facing the opponents. He’s always eager to learning, so I think he will adapt himself very quickly.”

Markovic’s former Benfica teammate Nemanja Matic, who moved to Chelsea back in January, claims: “What can I say about Markovic? It was excellent playing with this 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.”

Copyright - - written by Chris Wood ([email protected])

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