There’s not much one can say in favour of Lazar Markovic – but, we at The T4O will give it a solid go, because we believe in the good in things, and football’s way of redeeming itself through a whole host of unlikely to other-worldly narratives. For instance, Ruud Van Nistelrooy was a country bumpkin variety of an attacking midfielder at Feyenoord, who was between par and decent. Paolo Maldini didn’t know how to trap the ball with is left foot even after turning professional at Milan. Denis Bergkamp was called ‘Beavis’ from the cartoon, Beavis and Butthead at Inter Milan, such was his ineptness. Zidane used to duck when the ball approached him from corners, when training at Cannes. Michael Ballack was a shy and skinny East German boy, who kept failing at Kaiserslautern because he was too polite for the rigours of football.
Now, we are not implying that Lazar Markovic may see an upturn in form that will lay his narrative besides the curious ones, of some of the greatest to ever kick a ball around – no, that would be foolish on the back of his rather lacklustre loan spell at Fenerbahce (how much of that is down to disillusionment, you’d wonder), and Klopp’s subsequent admission that his squad is too large, and making it known equivocally, that Lazar (and Balotelli) would be needing to move on for the games they need to be playing.
Klopp does have a point – the Serb is 22-years-old, and perhaps, we’d certainly hope so, that his best footballing years lies in front of him and not in the past – a pretty sort of a past, where he was being courted by the who’s who of European Football at Benfica. All that promise couldn’t just have sublimated – and that’s the premise of this article, not just giving the fleetfooted wing-forward a benefit of a doubt – no, that would be irresponsible and counter-intuitive; but also investigating the possible points that show Liverpool may actually do well to keep him.
#1 The Sadio Mane Alternative
It was evident at Tottenham, in the second-half of the game at The White Hart Lane, that the flying Senegalese was running on empty and was at any given moment going to crash and burn having already picked up a yellow card.
Lazar Markovic, with his boundless pace would have been the ideal candidate to bring off the bench and seamlessly slot into that role on the right without much ado. It’s clear as a bright summer’s day icoming through the braches of acacias in the Savannas – that Sadio is going to be the main man for Liverpool this season, and the club will run the risk of over-playing him, considering there is no other like-for-like option for the management to call upon, who could push a team’s backline back, by the sheer yardage he covers.
#2 Liverpool’s Shape Changing Peg
Liverpool haven’t had it easy this over the pre-season and the early part of the new campaign with the number of injuries sustained by its players. Lazar Markovic, although begrudgingly, showed the potential for tactical perceptivity and flexibility in the roles that is demanded of his, by competently, or semi-competently, turning out as a right-wing back for Liverpool. Well, yes, it did cripple the remainder of his confidence that mind-boggling move from Brendan Rodgers – but it also showed that he was willing to put in a shift for the team, in a completely unfamiliar position. It could have been calamitous, but it wasn’t – in fact, he played the role with gumption and a wee bit of dignity, if not astuteness.
Markovic is equally comfortable on either flank (as an attacker, obviously) and has shown much more enterprise when he’s been played through the middle, as a #10, which is his natural position, in all fairness – so, maybe play him there as see if he’s still rubbish?
#3 Geggenpressing Man
Regardless of your stance, critic, super-critic, twitter-twerp, fanboy, football absurdist or hipster – one thing you can’t fault Lazar with, was his work rate when he was (seldom) played at Liverpool. Yes, granted, all that waned when he was shipped off to Fener for a season-long loan, but, hey – whose wouldn’t, when coming from the heady heights of the Premier League? Lazar Markovic was resigned to mediocrity compounded by his lack of self-belief which was sponged by Brendan Rodgers in his time at Liverpool. You’d agree that Brendan had that effect on quite a few of the current Liverpool players. Lazar’s deployment at right-wing-back was the perfect example of him being able to do the linear press on the flanks- and absolutely essential component to Juergen Klopp’s geggenpressing template.
The tactic of the liner press on the flanks was sprung on Tottenham – as a counter measure to their packed midfield, where the play and impetus would be funnelled through the wide areas by Sadio and co. And Spurs, for the first half couldn’t cope with it. It was only after Sadio Mane was physically toiling, were Spurs back in the ascendency.
In the era of football, where stockpiling is considered an occupational eventuality, a part and parcel of the modern game; clubs should owe much responsibility to how they use and abuse their resources. Lazar Markovic is a classic case of nipping a talent a season too early, just so the competitor doesn’t cultivate his talents instead. Liverpool will do well to own-up to that responsibility and try to squeeze out every ounce of talent and resourcefulness they can muster from the once Serbian wonderkid. It’s going to be a long, long, season. They are going to need it.