20 Midfielder Liverpool Serbia
2014 has been...
January: IBWM poster-boy Lazar Markovic starts the year in good form but with not quite the same crash, bang and wallop we’ve grown accustomed to. He’s now getting lots of minutes for Benfica and can still get us off our seats as and when he feels like it, but he seems to have two levels – normal and superhuman – with no inbetween and the latter not employed enough for our money. It still feels like a great fit though, we said in his review last year that he was “special and now in a league that nurtures great talent, we couldn’t be happier”. We stand by that.
February: A really good month, three goals in six games and lots of eye-catching moments to pat ourselves on the backs for spotting. It is staggering how good he can be one-on-one with the keeper, his composure is excellent for someone still so early in their career. He still feels like “our” Markovic.
March: The beginning of a noticeable slow-down towards the end of the season, his best games seem to be coming in the Europa League. Occasionally in domestic matches he can look disinterested, this is usually followed by a moment that changes the game and all is forgiven. He revels in the big games but in others he can drift - does he think he’s too big for the Portuguese league already? The transfer drums are also starting noticeably to beat but Benfica are quick to dismiss any such rumours.
April: Our man plays in his biggest game to date, the Europa League semi-final first leg against Juventus, and your IBWM editor makes the following notes in the name of research, repeated verbatim here despite their “loose” quality…
He’s all over them
Defending – team performance, back twice to double up on the winger and coming inside whenever Juve have the ball to make an extra man in midfield, quite mature tactically
If he’d scored that I would have been the worst person on Twitter.
What a pass, lovely stuff.
Run - how many players has he taken on in this game and got away from them?
Quieter half but still one of the best players on the pitch
Switch flanks, happy on either
I think even with only this to go on we can deduce he had a good game.
May: The month in Markovic is dominated by the red card against Juventus in the second leg that meant missing the Europa League final through suspension despite making the competition’s Team of the Year. He took it upon himself to get involved in a touchline squabble that saw both teams converge on one another and their respective benches become involved. He claims he was only there acting as a peacemaker but replays show this is what we’ll charitably call “difficult to see”. Impetuous and costly, is this how his Benfica career will end?
June: The season’s over and holidays are being taken for those not going to the World Cup. For our intrepid hero the month is quiet but lines appear in newspapers across Europe mentioning his potential availability. An agent putting the feelers out? More than likely and inevitably the Chelsea story rears its head again, some papers even saying a deal has already been done. Liverpool are also mentioned (as are a host of others) and Benfica are quiet on his future giving encouragement to those sniffing around.
July: The deal is done, medical passed, and he signs for Liverpool for £20m plus add-ons. IBWM is excited to see how he handles the Premier League and all the right people are saying the right sort of things.
August: In an interview with The Telegraph, Lazar says that “of course” Liverpool will win the title this year and will he be one of the Premier League’s best players? “Most likely. I am hoping so and I believe I will.” He also addresses some of the persistent rumours surrounding Chelsea’s interest by admitting that he was a huge fan of Gianfranco Zola and supported Chelsea during his time there, but now? “I love Liverpool”. Makes his debut against Man City and a week later features against Tottenham.
September: Plays three times for his new club, his performances are sluggish with the occasional moment of delight, overall his player ratings vary, for example:
Game One (v Aston Villa), from goal.com – “Looked the man most likely for Liverpool until his substitution. Will be a great favourite here once he settles into the side.”
Game Two (v Middlesbrough), from ESPN - “Even at this early stage he's beginning to make fans wonder what the fuss and the fee were all about. Not much sign of the pace that thrilled fans briefly during the U.S. tour. Replaced early on in extra time but was frankly lucky to survive that long. Needs a big performance soon but Rodgers may already be wondering if he has it in him.”
Game Three (v Everton), from ITV.com – “energetic but unconvincing”
Things aren’t going very well, but it’s still very early days.
October: After struggling to adapt and make an impact he is moved to say in an interview that he’s happy in Liverpool and loves the club, but the fans need to be patient with him. He then repeats this twice more before the interview’s conclusion. He makes four appearances in the month but is clearly finding the Premier League tough, so tough that watching him forget the basics such as continually mishitting simple passes is making blood boil at IBWM Towers.
November: We’re going to remove the Twitter users names here for the sake of privacy, but the following tweets are from November. We’ve starred the obvious for the sake of your workplace Internet filters –
“That Markovic is the biggest waste of money pile of f**king sh*te sh*t bag that’s every played for Liverpool. Worse than Kewell. Sh*thouse”
“Some saying Markovic was sh*te? Don’t take drugs! Worked his ass off, was up and down, played well defensively and brilliant going up!”
“Worth remembering that £20m signing Markovic is so sh*t he isn’t even in the squad”
“Encouraging perfomance from Lazar Markovic. Brilliant movement of ball at his feet before his second half run”
“Markovic needs to do one! the little c**t bubble…”
“Two massive standout players for me tonight – Toure & Markovic, superb!”
“Markovic is rubbish”
It’s now painfully obvious that a) he’s dividing people into those who still believe and those who’ve already given up, and b) either way something’s going wrong.
December: At the time of writing his only football has been a cameo at the end of the game against Sunderland and another against Basel cut short thanks to a red card. His 16 minutes in that game summed up his Liverpool career to date; highly energetic, a couple of brilliant moments but ultimately opinion decided by an incident that looked harsh but was the result of terrible decision making from Lazar. Things are not going well. There’s a lot of football to come in December so he will feature more but he needs to climb back up to his normal level (superhuman can wait for the minute). He plays on confidence, the longer this goes on, the heavier that Liverpool shirt's going to feel.
That was the year that was. Not pretty.
Nobody at Liverpool has impressed this season in the fashion of their last, but as a new signing all Markovic had to do was to show half of what he is capable of and the fans would forgive him a bumpy start. The reality is this; so far he has done nothing to justify his transfer fee and so far our constant belief in his ability looks misplaced as each Premier League game passes him by.
But we know its there, we’ve been watching him for three years and we know the potential is immense, the talent right now enormous. What is going wrong? Well the circumstances aren’t great at his new club as they adjust to losing one of the best players in the world and replacing him with several signings as no one man could step into those shoes. Tactically they need to evolve as last season’s first-half shock and awe campaign just isn’t there this time, and Lazar, amongst others, is struggling to find himself at home on the pitch.
He deserves patience and the Liverpool fans should give it to him as if he can settle and find his form, they will adore him. He will take a man on, score important goals, play well in big games and do that thing that makes him a Vine superstar in seconds. However right now it’s clear he’s feeling the strain and the interview in October was a clear sign of this. Playing at Partizan and Benfica is pressure, both club’s fans are among the most passionate in the world, but playing at Liverpool brings more of the same plus a far bigger spotlight. He’s never doubted his own ability before now, often appearing arrogant to some in truth, but he needs to rediscover his mojo quickly. At Benfica he occasionally looked disinterested; his new challenge is right here, right now. Time to step up, we still believe, just about.
“At times his Liverpool career has been tough to watch and I keep wishing he was back at Benfica getting some much needed experience in the first team and scoring goals, but he took the move and he has to live up to it. I still think he’s really, really special but I am genuinely worried that Liverpool may not be the club where he shows it” – Dave Hartrick
"Lazar Marković has been sent off twice in his last five appearances in European competition." - OptaJoe
D You’re so, so, *so* much better than this, now go and prove it. Please.
For Henri Lloyd try Scotts