Long rumoured to become the first signing of the Jürgen Klopp era, today Liverpool officially completed the signing of 19-year-old Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic in a €7M deal. As part of the deal, Grujic will remain with current club Red Star Belgrade for the remainder of the season, with Liverpool receiving a €1M loan fee in return.
Liverpool beat out Inter Milan, early frontrunners for his signing. They also saw off late bids from Zenit St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow, with both Russian clubs reportedly offering around €10M for the player. The Reds, though, were willing to pay the entire fee up front and to loan Grujic back for the rest of the year, and in the end that won them his signature.
"I’m very excited and so proud to be here," Grujic told Liverpool’s official website. "I can’t wait to get started, to play at Anfield and train at Melwood. [Jürgen Klopp] called me one month ago on my phone and spoke to me very well. I was thinking about my progress in my next period and decided it was good for me to come here and try to be the best I can."
Grujic is reportedly a player Liverpool’s new assistant manager Zeljko Buvac has been keeping tabs on, and so too was Liverpool’s transfer committee, making the young star an obvious early target. He quickly impressed Klopp, too, and negotiations began—though at the time Milan had already been talking to Red Star and were considered favourites.
A series of phone calls with Klopp convinced the Grujic that Liverpool were his best option, and the club’s willingness to structure the deal to satisfy Red Star—who are in danger of being sanctioned by UEFA and desperately in need of an immediate injection of cash—as well as the player’s father by loaning him back for the second half of the season won the day.
"When I came here, our scouts showed me some footage of a very skilled player," said Liverpool’s manager of the club’s first signing since he took over at Anfield. "We watched it, we spoke to him, we met each other. He’s a good boy, a young boy, but plays an important role at the moment at Red Star, who are the best team in Serbia."
After making a handful of appearances last year, Grujic has become a mainstay for Red Star this season, scoring five goals and adding seven assists in 22 appearances for the Serbian league leaders. He has usually been deployed in a box-to-box role, and during his transfer saga the young midfielder has been compared to both Paul Pogba and Steve Gerrard.
Having signed his deal, Grujic now returns to Red Star for the remainder of the season. He will join Liverpool over the summer and early rumours suggest he will take the number eight shirt—which he currently wears in Serbia—when he arrives at Anfield.