Jurgen Klopp’s midfield is stacked with quality options. Fabinho, Naby Keita, Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and James Milner have all played their part in a dynamic midfield trio at some stage this season, while the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will undoubtedly have a prominent role to play when he’s back at full fitness.
But there is also a player plying his trade elsewhere who is consistently showcasing a level of talent which suggests he could have a big future at Anfield, namely Marko Grujic.
The Serbia international is currently on loan at Hertha Berlin, and his performances have reportedly attracted interest from Lazio and Galatasary.
However, Grujic recently admitted that he would like to stay with Hertha for at least another season, if not two, per Bild.
Whether Klopp will be willing to allow him to embark on another loan deal remains to be seen, but murmurs emerging from those who have seen the powerful midfielder in action suggest that he would be foolish to sell him before he has been given a run of games at Liverpool.
Let’s take a look at what a handful of experts have said about Grujic in recent years…
Sasa Ibrulj delivered a report on Grujic when Liverpool agreed to sign him from Red Star Belgrade in 2016. Ibrulj is an expert in Balkan-based football, and he delivered a gushing analysis on the new recruit via the Daily Mirror.
“Grujic is an unorthodox midfielder, both strong on the ball and blessed with very good pace. He is a genuine box-to-box player, often compared with likes of Nemanja Matic or Paul Pogba. Some have even branded him the Serbian Steven Gerrard.
“The combination of good passing ability, fine vision, work-rate and athleticism makes him a versatile operator who can play deep – as he did for Red Star – but can also do a job behind the attackers as well. With a powerful and precise shoot, he also has an eye for goal.”
Comparisons to Pogba, Matic and Gerrard point towards a player of three different styles, but the fact he was being spoken of in the same bracket as the aforementioned trio is telling: Grujic was regarded as a massive prospect when the deal was agreed.
While he hasn’t managed to vindicate any of those claims in England just yet, quotes from further afield suggest it may only be a matter of time before some substance is added.
The love affair between Marko Grujic and Hertha is mirrored by all parties involved. The club’s head coach, Pal Dardai, is a legendary figure in the capital.
He enjoyed a lengthy playing career with Hertha spanning just shy of fifteen years, and he hasn’t come across a player quite like Grujic during his time there.
This is what he had to say about him following a 1-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in December, via the Bundesliga’s official website.
“I’ve been at Hertha for 22 years. This isn’t meant as an insult to anyone else, but Marko is by far the best midfielder I’ve seen in my time at the club. I was a defensive midfielder and managed to score 17 goals, which isn’t bad.”
“But Marko carries much more of a goal threat, he’s got a sensational shot on him and is much better than I was […] He can play anywhere in midfield.”
Considering the fluidity of Liverpool’s midfield and the need to contribute to both the defensive and attacking phases, Dardai’s admission that he can play in a multitude of midfield roles bodes well for a future on Merseyside.
Grujic earned his move to the Bundesliga after impressing on a short-term loan spell with Cardiff City where, under the tutelage of Neil Warnock, he seemed to improve with every passing fixture.
This is what the managerial veteran had to say about him during his loan spell, per Liverpool Echo.
“I think he’s got better. He’s not getting caught in possession as much now. He’s realising how quick it is, especially in your own half. If you dwell on the ball in the Championship it’s too late. I think he’s got more strengths to his bow. He’s made us play a bit more, he’s got quite good vision and he’s been very good in the air for us as well so he’s growing into it.”
The above listed quotes paint a glowing vision for the future for Grujic.
One theme seems to persist throughout: his style can best be summed up by his versatility, which derives from his unique blend of coveted qualities.
Grujic is neither a deep-lying playmaker nor an enforcer, a box-to-box or a number ten. He is simply a talented midfielder with a vast pallet of attributes, varying from physicality to technique to finishing.
This begs the question of whether he has a role yet to play at Liverpool.
Well, competition for a place in the starting XI is intense right now, but Milner is ageing and closing in on the end of his contract, while one would presume the likes of Henderson and Wijnaldum are unlikely to remain at the club long-term.
And, considering the 22-year-old rather cryptically stated he would like to remain at Hertha for one or two more years but crucially didn’t declare his interest in a permanent move, it seems he could be acquiring the experience he needs before returning to Liverpool.
Indeed, Grujic could be an ace hiding up Klopp’s sleeve.