Speculation has surfaced over a potential Anfield exit for Lazar Markovic this transfer window, but Brendan Rodgers should not be too hasty in disposing of the Serbian, writes Ben Twelves.
Lazar Markovic’s Liverpool future has been the surprising subject of speculation, just 12 months after his £20million move from Benfica.
Reports from Merseyside journalists such as the Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe have described his future as “uncertain” while his former club are said to be hopeful of re-signing the Serbian, according to Portuguese media.
It would be a disappointingly early departure should Markovic leave, and letting him go is something Brendan Rodgers should not consider.
Though the 21-year-old endured a mixed debut season, the club didn’t part with such a vast sum to secure his services a year ago for no reason.
He’s clearly a talent, and one Liverpool must keep around.
There’s a number of factors to take into consideration when discussing the Serbia international’s average first year at Anfield.
Firstly, the vast majority of his 34 total appearances came while deployed anywhere but his natural position.
Played predominantly at wing-back with only brief spells as a wide forward or central attacking midfielder, Markovic played mostly in false roles, including right-back in Liverpool’s 1-0 loss at Hull City.
It’s hard enough for any youngster to adapt to the frenetic nature of the Premier League in a familiar role, let alone make-shift positions in just 23 starts in a struggling side.
His productivity figures don’t make for spectacular reading with one assist and three goals to his name, but his hard-working, selfless contribution to Liverpool’s upturn at wing-back, where he displayed great awareness and responsibility defensively, alongside providing an attacking outlet, must not be discarded.
And though the youngster was pushed from pillar to post, he performed solidly, if unspectacularly, impressing at times though not at others – as to be expected.
The 21-year-old showed versatility, performing adequately in varying areas, something Rodgers – an admirer of multi-functional players – likes.
While not making headlines yet, a year of development and adaptation under his belt sees the Serbian prepared to progress.
He showed in flashes what he can bring to the team with his pace and dribbling skills evident as he produced some excellent runs from deep, wide and centrally – displayed in his goals against Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur.
His ability to carry the ball – alongside his desire to break lines and burst forward – will be a great asset to what will hopefully become a quick, slick Reds attack.
While work is needed on decision making and execution in possession – he posted a pass success of just 81.9 percent and often spoiled good play with sloppiness like away at Arsenal with a carelessly misplaced pass to Raheem Sterling – they’re far from reasons to give up.
Reports also indicate Rodgers will return to his preferred 4-3-3 formation next season, with a 4-4-2 diamond shape also set to be an option.
Markovic has a role to play in either system and with the need to rotate wisely with the Reds set to compete in four competitions including the notoriously demanding Europa League, he provides a young, improving and quality option to utilise.
Age and time is firmly on his side and while there should be an urgency to get the best out of him, there by no means needs to be haste in writing off his chances of succeeding at Anfield.
A loan transfer to a fellow Premier League side could be something for both parties to consider.
But a temporary move is all the talented youngster should make away from L4.
Markovic certainly didn’t have a blistering debut season on Merseyside, but his first Anfield campaign was far from a complete failure either, with genuine cause for optimism.
There’s undoubtedly work to be done and improvements to make, but that work must be carried out under Brendan Rodgers at Anfield, and ideally nowhere else.
Stats via WhoScored and LFCHistory.