Last season, there were many who wondered why Liverpool acquired a young, relatively unknown, Serbian midfielder only to allow him to stay at his club, Red Star Belgrade, until the summer. It was a dream move for Marko Grujic to join Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp but the 20-year-old prospect believed that he needed time both to help Red Star secure the SuperLiga title and to train harder, preparing his body for the rigors of life in the Premier League.
“Everyone knows the Premier League is one of the hardest in the world,” Grujic said, “and physically you need to be fully fit and you need to run a lot. I tried to prepare for six months, that is why I wanted to stay at Red Star.
“Of course it was to win the title with them, but also to do some extra training in the gym and running so when I came here in July I could train with everyone on the same level. That was what I was doing when I stayed in Belgrade.”
Preseason caveats abound over competition and fitness levels, but over the summer Grujic showed us all that the decision to stay in Serbia and ready himself for Liverpool has paid dividends. We saw a player who is confident in his play, has an eye for goal and fits so snuggly into a Jürgen Klopp side.
“Preseason went very well for me,” he said, “but that’s just preseason and now I need to adapt fully to the Premier League.
“But I’ve see that I can work nicely with my teammates, even against strong teams like Chelsea, for example. And that’s what gives me confidence that I can do big things with Liverpool.”
Grujic knows he must be patient and wait for his moments out on the pitch. The young box-to-box protégé is, no doubt, busting his gut every day in training, listening to the coaching staff, establishing links with his teammates, hoping to move beyond the “one for the future” tags and install himself in the squad as a pivotal piece for seasons to come.
“I know I’m still a young guy,” Marko said, “and here there are many talented young guys. All of us need to work harder than the older guys to get the chance and when we get the chance, to use it.”
“I’ve prepared in my head for one year or six months, to work hard, to try and get the coach to see I’m ready for battle in the Premier League.”
Prepare. Absorb. Adapt. If Grujic keeps up his enthusiasm and confidence for Klopp’s system and for the weekly knock-down-drag-out fight in the most competitive league in the world, well, we might just have ourselves a player.