Mert Conker writes a detailed Scout Report about Marko Grujic, the Liverpool youngster whose performances have been turning heads in Merseyside.
Novak Djokovic: “The tradition in Serbia has always been team sports – football, basketball, handball, volleyball and water polo, individual sports are not supported.”
Although Djokovic criticises Serbian sport tradition in the above quote, Serbia are dilatational nation in terms of sports. Tennis, waterpolo, basketball, volleyball and plenty of other amateur sports are improving day by day. Their attitude and education system premeditate individuals to improve to become World class athletes. Grujic is the latest gem of Serbian football and now his future is in the hands of one of the best youth mentors in the World of football. Along with his staff, Jurgen Klopp is one of the best managers to help him to become a top level player.
Who is Marko Grujic?
Marko was born in Belgrade, Serbia on 13th April, 1996. He joined the youth ranks of Red Star Belgrade at the age of nine and played at all levels for his boyhood club. After making his debut against Voyvodina in 2013, he improved his reputation and was sent to Kolubara in order to get more playing time. It was a successful loan period for all parties and a new contract followed in May, 2015. His last season as a Red Star player was magnificent. They started season with amazing momentum by not losing in first 19 games in the league which means they were undefeated in the first part of the season. During the winter transfer break, he completed his move to Liverpool for a fee of £5.1m and was loaned straight back to Red Star where he completed the season and won the league in overwhelming fashion.
The transfer to Liverpool was not an easy process for both parties. The starlet’s father didn’t want his son to join Merseyside giant but Jurgen Klopp himself called him and also his highly rated assistant Buvac flew to Belgrade to convince both player and his family which eventually led to Grujic being snapped up by the Reds. So far, he has made a great impression with his solid pre-season performances. The header vs Barcelona was an exceptional goal and he also scored couple more against lower league teams.
If we speak of national team experience, he has been part of every level of the Serbian national team. Serbia’s biggest achievement was in June 2015. He won the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with his nation and most importantly, he’s been a part of 3 senior level matches with Serbia’s senior team. Grujic’s debut was against Cyprus when he replaced Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic in the second half.
What is his Style of Play?
Grujic is a box-to-box midfielder. A big man, he likes to operate around the opponent’s penalty area and has a good eye for goal. He always tries to make vertical runs with the ball at his feet and close the ball down in his own half when opponents seize control of the ball. Basically, he likes to be all around to pitch. He can both defend and attack, similar to Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard and some compare his style to that of the Liverpool legend.
What are his Strengths?
I can say that he is sufficient in technical department. His passing range is decent and he’s capable of controlling the tempo and direction of the game with his long range passes. He is good at passing in confined spaces as well. He is also a decent striker of the ball. He can play different roles as one would expect of a complete midfielder. When he plays as defensive midfielder, with composure, good positional knowledge and passing ability, he looks more than competent. As a central or box-to-box midfielder, he shoots quite often, makes direct runs into the penalty area in order to get himself on the scoresheet. Briefly stated, Grujic can meet the expectation of every different role of midfielder position.
Serbians have historically done well in England. Nemanja Vidic, Nemanja Matic and Branislav Ivanovic are the first names that leap to mind. All of them showed great character on the pitch both mentally and physically. Marko definitely has same attributes and potential to become one of the leading players in the league. He is good in the air which is extremely important for a team like Liverpool who are weak when it comes to defending set-pieces. In both defensive and attacking set pieces, Serbian can play a pivotal role. He can score goals, create chances and defend the area with his aerial control. We have to state his physical prowess which will be key to his premier league success. His strength and stamina are well advanced and he knows how to use his physical superiority as well. At Liverpool, a potential partnership with Emre Can could provide them with a powerful midfield against any opponent in the league.
What are his Weaknesses?
His lack of first team experience can cause him a problem in the Premier League. Dealing with pressure without having any experience can be a tall order for such a young player. As a player, he lacks acceleration but has decent pace. This leads to him running with the ball efficiently but it takes time to reach his peak pace. I cannot say that he has a major weaknesses but instead of that, there are some key areas in which he has to improve. Finishing might sound not a necessary quality for a midfielder but as a player who likes to operate around the penalty area it’s a crucial aspect for Grujic. Working with Klopp on this department will obviously add extra advantage for him. He will find enough training attention from his boss to prove himself in the best league in the World.