Nikola Mitrovic profiles a player who has been strongly linked with a move to Liverpool this summer and who has been heavily scouted by LFC in recent weeks, a young forward who could yet flourish.
Full name: Lazar Markovic
Date of birth: 2 March 1994 (age 19)
Place of birth: Cacak, FR Yugoslavia
Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Playing position: Forward
The latest name to be linked with a summer move to Liverpool is Partizan Belgrade’s latest attacking prodigy, Lazar Markovic, as Liverpool look to continue the trend of buying talented youngsters and developing them into stars of their future.
Markovic is a versatile 19-year old forward who made a breakthrough into Partizan’s first team at the age of 17, which inevitably led to comparisons with Stevan Joveti? and Adem Ljaji?. It’s safe to say that he doesn’t share many traits with this duo but Partizan have invested a lot of time in his development and will be looking to get as much money as possible from one of top European clubs that have been following his progress.
However, as many followers of Partizan and Serbian national team will testify, Markovic, although having decent potential, is very far from finished product and doesn’t always warrant an inclusion in starting elevens, especially in national team. Aside from youth and inexperience, that could also be down to suffering from hype that Serbian press have created around him, which usually is the case with most talented players of “Eternal rivals”.
First thing that most of people will notice about Markovic is his electric pace, with or without the ball. While it could be said that he’s overreliant on it, he actually knows when and how to use it, unlike most youngsters who just get their heads down and knock the ball into space past opponents. Beside his pace, he also has good touch and control of the ball and combination of these qualities makes him a great asset to have when playing counterattacking football. He also isn’t afraid to have a go at his fullback with the ball at his feet, though he lacks imagination in his dribbles.
Markovic is small in stature and experiences problems when playing against strong defenders in tight spaces or in the air. He also lacks composure in his finishing, tending to buckle under pressure when facing the goalkeeper or make wrong decisions in the final third (recent away games against Crvena Zvezda and Inter Milan are an example of that). As any youngster, he is prone to disappearing in games, not tracking back when playing on the flank and not connecting well with his teammates in transitional phases of play, often looking just to stay forward, move into channel and wait for a pass into space ahead of him instead of trying to help dispossess the opponent, look for a better position or pick a teammate’s run when the ball is at his feet.
It has to be said, though, that Markovic also suffers from being used in multiple positions in consecutive matches. So far in his career, he has played on the left, right and behind the striker and that could have a detrimental effect on most young players. However, that versatility should hold him in good stead in the future, probably adding another dimension to his game, depending on position his next club picks as his strongest,
In my opinion, he’s a Serbian version of young Theo Walcott, only without the lethal finishing skills – under pressure from his country’s press and fans alike, amazingly quick but wildly inconsistent, lacking real flair when taking on defenders and lacking game intelligence (often making poor decisions in crucial moments of attack).
Finishing and defensive discipline should be the first aspects of his game he needs to improve – thankfully, he’s very young and has enough time on work on improving himself. I still can’t decide which position I think is his strongest as he performs similarly in all of them – perhaps right wing could be the one he spends the most time in in the future, provided he shows great improvement in tactical aspect of his game.
When it comes to comparison with one of the current crop of Liverpool players, Raheem Sterling is the closest comparison to Markovic. However, Sterling is vastly superior than him in terms of tactical responsibilities and dealing with physical defenders. Markovic certainly wouldn’t improve Liverpool’s attack in short term but Brendan Rodgers has been on the lookout for a quick and versatile forward who would improve Liverpool’s counter-attacking game ever since he missed out on Walcott. At the price of around £5 million, Markovi? would be sound investment but Partizan will surely be looking for almost twice that amount, given the interest of other clubs, especially Russian ones.
The fact of the matter is that Markovic is nowhere near good enough to start for top four clubs in any of Europe’s best five leagues and not good enough to be a regular starter for top eight clubs in England. While his pace and control will be very appealing to any club, his weaknesses leave him trailing the best European youngsters and he will have to put in a lot of effort in order to truly succeed in world of football.
Judging by his interviews, he seems very ambitious (stating that playing for Chelsea is his biggest dream) but also calculated, so I’m fairly convinced that he will not follow in footsteps of Perica Ognjenovi? and get an early big move that will kill his career before it even started. That will also depend on his club and offers that they receive but I definitely believe that he will put in a hard shift wherever he moves and do his best to become a star of modern football.