Liverpool are close to signing a player who was always destined for a big move and to become a star. For the last couple of years, Lazar Marković has been watched closely by a number of big clubs across Europe. He wasn't bought with a view to being loaned out but to be bedded in with the squad before becoming a key component of the attack. Chelsea, Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Internazionale were believed to hold the most serious interest with Chelsea purchasing an option on the player, but Liverpool is the young Serbian international's Premier League destination.
DOB: 5/3/94 (20) | Height: 5'9" (1.75 meters)
2014 Season: 27 appearances (30 starts)
7 goals, 4 assists
Strengths: There are so many and this is why the a deal is not only about the present but the future. At just 20 years of age, Lazar Marković has many tools with which he can use to destabilise the opposition. He can play in a variety of positions and is a right-footed, flexible forward comfortable on either flank of as a support striker. He has pace and lots of it. What any observer of Marković has become accustomed to is the acceleration that takes him past his opponents and the continued pace that ensures this young man will not be caught. Once he flicks the switch, he is gone.
Pace without technique or intelligence is infuriating, but Marković posses an intoxicating combination of great technique, close control, unpredictability, pace, dribbling ability, creativity, and awareness that ensures that once he skips away from an opponent into space, he can drive towards goal to shoot or pick out a decent pass. Marković is dynamic dynamite. He constantly attracts defenders to his zone and if he plays alongside other quick, intelligent players then he will both create and find space to cause damage.
At both Partizan and Benfica, his attitude was seen as one of the foundations of his success. He is focused on the field, reluctant to engage in any activities that will distract him from fulfilling his potential, and his dedication will serve him in adapting to the biggest club in his career to date. His education at Benfica is also attractive for Liverpool because of the system Jorge Jesus prefers to use in order to win the ball back and attack. Pressing without the ball, tracking back, keeping the ball, understanding fast transitions, and being fit enough to carry out both attacking as well as defensive duties were demanded by the Portuguese tactician.
Marković will hunt for the ball and will not be the sort of player who ignores tactical instructions. For a manager as tactically flexible as Brendan Rodgers, it is helpful for incoming midfield and attacking players to be accustomed to pressing higher up the pitch and being tactically intelligent to take on instructions before and during games. Like Emre Can, Marković was an important player for a club in the Champions League at such a young age and experienced a lengthy Europa League campaign even if he was suspended for the final against Sevilla. Like Adam Lallana, Marković played for a manager who advocated pressing by attacking players.
There are a couple of other areas that are underrated. His dribbling ability at high speed catches the eye immediately much in the same way any young dribbling talent does. However, his teamwork and link up play is commendable for a player his age in the position he operates in.
Weaknesses: There are few even if he's barely out of his teens and is just only going to get better. He needs to make better decisions in the final third and this is often a problem with young attacking players who require greater experience in order to pick the right passes. While he is an excellent dribbler, there can be a propensity to carry the ball too far and his timing of releasing the ball will need to improve. He is only 20 and naturally such improvements in that area can be expected.
Some have questioned whether he's incisive enough in his passing to play as a second striker but apart from a few misjudgements in the weight of his passes in the final third, he could play in the hole or as a second striker without any difficulty. Consistency is also a problem so there may be a month or two when Liverpool will have to be patient but that is to be expected with rare talents.
Some players are predominantly one-footed and it hasn't stopped the likes of Rivaldo, Lionel Messi, and Arjen Robben. Well, Lazar Marković loves his right foot, though it certainly is sweet and soft when controlling a football. If he can be a competent finisher with his left then more goals will flow as he can switch wings with ease and be comfortable finishing from various attacking positions.
His heading is not great and he's not particularly tall so often comes up short in aerial duels. He's not the strongest physically either so may benefit from some time working out in the gym to fill out a bit more, but he will battle for the ball. His hold up play isn't anywhere near as strong as his link up and combination play, but his current lack of physical strength has a lot to do with this.
Marković's finishing also needs to improve but his goal return is one in four over three seasons for Partizan and Benfica. That's a solid return for a player developing from 17 to 20 years of age, and he gets himself in plenty of promising positions and shows flashes of impressive composure in front of goal. If he finds consistency in his finishing then he can become a regular goalscorer.
Brendan Rodgers works well with young players and Marković should see improvements in his game. Any young player coming to Liverpool will find that the manager is one of the best around in coaching young players to improve their game and providing them with confidence to apply fresh ideas on the field.
Summation: In short, overwhelmingly positive. He moved from Partizan to Benfica and in just one season he's off to one of the biggest clubs in Europe. He is one of those players who stands out on the field and to be honest, if this precocious player progresses as he should, it will be a problem for Liverpool to hold onto him. These are the type of players Liverpool want at this stage, ones who have the talent to contribute now but the potential to grow in future seasons. He can be rotated in and out of the team to bed in but he has the tools to make his mark this coming season.
The thought of Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, and Lazar Marković running with the ball or into space will be frightening for Liverpool's opponents and the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard, and Adam Lallana will enjoy supplying them with chances. He may take a little time to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League but do not be surprised if he adapts relatively quickly because he's known to be a fiercely competitive and determined individual who doesn't hide on the field.
Lazar Marković is an extremely talented, determined, focused, speedy, and skilful attacking player. This is a very special talent and it will be a pleasure witnessing his development at Liverpool FC.