Marko Grujic hasn’t officially signed for Liverpool, and when he does he will be returning to Red Star Belgrade for the second half of the season. He will make his first appearance for his new club next summer, a 20-year-old looking to adjust to the Premier League after arriving from UEFA’s 27th ranked league. To expect an immediate impact from the young midfielder would be foolish.
Grujic holds promise, but on the surface he seems a signing for the future, like so many other youngsters Liverpool have spent £3 and £5 and £7M on over the years. If he does break through, if he does come good on his promise, it’s likely the earliest he will play a major role for the club will be in the 2017-18 season after he’s had a year to settle. The last thing he needs is pressure, but it looks like he might already be getting some.
"We will, in the next three days, sign a contract with Liverpool," Red Star’s sporting director Zvezdan Terzic told Serbian television today, putting to rest any last doubts that a deal to sell Grujic to Liverpool had been agreed and was now only waiting to be made official by the clubs. "Grujic will sign a five-year contract with Liverpool that will earn him a €1.2M annual income. He’ll get the number eight on his back."
When he was first linked with a move to Inter Milan, the comparisons were to Paul Pogba. When Liverpool entered the mix, Steven Gerrard comparisons popped up. Taking the eight shirt—and that Liverpool are apparently setting it aside for him when he arrives in six months after his loan-back to Red Star for the second half of the season—certainly won’t put a damper on those comparisons.
It will also serve to ratchet up expectations. A youngster being handed the eight will have many expecting an instant impact from Grujic. And perhaps the club are so high on his talent they believe he will deliver that where youngsters like Luis Alberto and Tiago Ilori haven’t in recent years. Even Emre Can, an unqualified success for a young transfer, continues to have ups and downs in his second season at the club.
In truth, it seems a bit much to hand an untested, soon to be 20-year-old from the Serbian SuperLiga a number that for most is inextricably linked to Steven Gerrard. Regardless, it seems Liverpool have their new number eight. Hopefully the weight of expectation goes with it will push Grujic to greatness rather than being an unnecessary weight if he doesn’t force his way straight into Liverpool’s best eleven.