Marko Grujic: Lowdown on the Red Star Belgrade midfielder on Liverpool’s transfer radar

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Liverpool could add Red Star Belgrade’s highly rated midfielder Marko Grujic to their ranks in the near future, with Jurgen Klopp eyeing a £5 million move.

The 19-year-old is said to have held talks with Liverpool ahead of a possible move to Merseyside, with reports suggesting that he could leave Red Star for £5 million.

This is likely to come at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, however, with Grujic keen to secure Champions League qualification with his club before sealing a transfer.

Though an under-the-radar target for what would be one of Klopp’s first signings as Liverpool manager, Grujic’s rise has been remarkable.

Swiftly developing into the focal point of Miodrag Bozovic’s Red Star squad, and attracting interest from the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Inter Milan, Grujic is clearly a talent worth pursuing.

 

Marko Grujic

Grujic has long been considered a talent with great potential, having joined Red Star as a nine-year-old at the behest of one of the club’s former players, Tomislav Milicevic.

After eight years spent developing in the Red Star academy, impressing with his strong performances across the midfield, Grujic was given his first-team debut at the age of 17, by ambitious young manager Ricardo Sa Pinto.

Despite Red Star losing 3-0 away to their rivals, Grujic’s first experience of senior football proved invaluable.

“All my life I dreamed of playing for his beloved club. I honestly did not expect to play from the first minute, but it happened, and I was overjoyed,” he recalled at the beginning of 2015.

“My heart leapt when I went out into the field, when I heard the East Stand our fans. We lost that game, but congratulations to the coach for having the audacity to play our youngsters.”

This gave Grujic a taste of top-level action, but the midfielder would have to wait until 2014/15 for his next appearance.

After spending the first half of the campaign on loan with Kolubara, Grujic set to establish himself in the Red Star squad—but it wasn’t until Bozovic’s appointment that he became a first-team regular.

Bozovic’s arrival has brought Red Star considerable success on the field, with Grujic’s performances in midfield hugely influential.

 

Style of Play, Strengths and Weaknesses

Grujic is often compared with his compatriot, Nemanja Matic, due to the similarities in their physique as tall, imposing midfielders, and just as the Chelsea man operates as the Blues’ defensive lynchpin, Grujic is typically fielded at the base of Red Star’s midfield.

But as Serbia-based journalist and Liverpool supporter Vlastimir Stevanovic told the Liverpool Echo‘s James Pearce, Grujic looks to be comfortable in a variety of midfield roles.

Naturally, this has seen him flooded with more unwelcome comparisons.

“If I had to compare Marko Grujic to anyone in terms of style of playing, I’d compare him to our own Steven Gerrard. In Serbia they call him ‘the new Matic’ and in Italy they call him ‘the new Pogba’,” Stevavoic explained.

A physically adept midfielder, Grujic offers a constant threat for his side in possession, whether that be in prompting attacking moves on the ball or providing an outlet for his team-mates.

Aided by his 6’3″ frame, Grujic is able to break up play in the middle of the park, and like Matic and Pogba, looks to trouble the opposition’s penalty area whenever possible.

So far this season, Grujic has made 19 SuperLiga appearances, scoring five goals and assisting on a further six, with Red Star so far unbeaten in the league; Bosovic’s side sit top of the table with a 19-point lead.

Much of this is due to the strong performances of Grujic, as Goal.com‘s Jay Jaffa explained after September’s 3-1 win over city rivals Partizan Belgrade.

“Grujic is going to be a star,” Jaffa said. “[He’s] 19, bossed [the] midfield. Tall, silky, great feet.”

Bozovic certainly agrees, reportedly telling Serbian media that “Grujic is the leader of this team, he drags us forward.”

With Red Star looking set to break Partizan’s SuperLiga dominance this season—their rivals have won seven of the last 10 Serbian league titles—Grujic would be right to remain in Belgrade for the rest of the season.

But when he tires of dragging his team-mates to success, would he make a strong fit for Klopp’s Liverpool?

 

Would Grujic Fit in at Liverpool?

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2015: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the Premier League match against Newcastle United at St. James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp’s squad is currently inundated with options in the centre of midfield.

Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, James Milner, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson have all featured regularly this season, while the likes of Jordan Rossiter and Cameron Brannagan offer welcome options in reserve.

But the club’s reported move for Grujic, as well as rumoured interest in Porto’s deep-lying playmaker Ruben Neves, suggests that Klopp is looking to add to his ranks in the future.

So far under Klopp, Liverpool have operated with either a two-man or three-man midfield engine, with the latter proving particularly effective.

This system utilises a pair of box-to-box midfielders flanking a more defensive-minded option, namely Lucas, and this high-energy role could be where Grujic fits in.

Grujic’s ability to shuttle from one box to the other in possession would suit this remit perfectly, while the Serbian’s physicality is reminiscent of Can, who is set to play a key role under Klopp for the long term.

The gulf in quality between the Serbian SuperLiga and the Premier League will, of course, provide a challenge for Grujic were he to join Liverpool.

But currently serving as the standout performer in such a dominant outfit, Grujic looks able to make the step up.

Spending the rest of the season on loan with Red Star would be preferable, but at £5 million Grujic could prove a bargain signing for Liverpool, and a solid addition for Klopp from 2016/17.

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