The rumour mill is always spinning and amongst the big names lies a rather forgotten man: Lazar Markovic.
The Serbian winger was one of the many signings brought in by Brendan Rodgers to try and help us take the next step following the departure of Luis Suarez but, like Balotelli, Lambert and Manquillo, he failed to deliver.
Now, he’s being linked with an eventual permanent departure from Anfield with a fee reportedly agreed with Olympiacos of Greece as the club look to cut their losses.
However, is there any value in Markovic for him to stay on English shores?
Why Did Liverpool Sign Him?
In truth, it’s difficult to see why.
From the limited data available, it’s clear to see that Liverpool were keen on signing Markovic for his confidence on the ball rather than what he did on it. In six games for Partizan Belgrade in 2012/13’s Europa League, Markovic attempted on average 3 dribbles per game but would only register 0.7 key passes and 1 assist and it becomes clear that he was a player who got his head down and ran.
This is further backed up by the fact that, in those six games, Markovic was dispossessed 2.2 times per game and had what was classed as ‘bad control’ 2.7 times per game. So, despite all of his confidence and ability on the ball, Markovic was a player of great frustration.
This trend continued in his solitary season at Benfica. While data is again limited for this time frame, Markovic showed similar traits to when he was at Partizan. While he attempted fewer dribbles per game in Portugal, he was still dispossessed a huge number of times. It peaked at 3.2 times per game in the Champions League which is the highest number of Markovic’s career.
Again, Markovic proved that, despite all of his technical ability, he was a player who could easily get himself caught up in trying to do too much by himself.
The Premier League
When Liverpool spent £20 million on Markovic in 2014, plenty was expected of the Serbian thanks to the price tag. However, as the data shows, Markovic was always going to be a project for Liverpool.
Sadly, that is not how elite football works and Markovic was thrown into the deep end and expected to perform. In the Premier League, he played just 19 games (of which only 11 were starts) and contributed 2 goals and 1 assist which was a disappointing return no matter what the circumstances.
However, Markovic did record a career-high in key passes per game (1.1) and was dispossessed significantly fewer times than his previous two seasons (just 1 time per game).
So, while he may not have lit up the Premier League as expected, he did alter his game to attempt to fit into Brendan Rodgers’ style of play.
However, he wasn’t long for Anfield and a series of loan deals ensued with the most notable being at Premier League strugglers Hull City in early 2017. For Hull, he was used (along with Pole Kamil Grosicki) as hard running wide men by Marco Silva.
While he only managed two goals and no assists in his time at the KC Stadium, Markovic was encouraged to show off his dribbling skills as he attempted 1.8 per game under Marco Silva. While that resulted in him being dispossessed often (2.3 times per game), it did also lead to Markovic being fouled 1.6 times per game which offered the strugglers an opportunity at set-pieces.
Is There Value In Markovic?
That’s a difficult question to answer.
In many ways, yes. His ability and willingness to dribble with the ball and attack defenders offers something that many struggling Premier League teams don’t have. Players like Markovic can make a critical difference in a relegation fight as proven by (excuse this lazy comparison) the importance of Wilfried Zaha at Crystal Palace.
However, Markovic’s end product has always been rather lacking. From the data available (from whoscored.com), Markovic made 81 appearances over the last few seasons and he returned 7 goals and 4 assists. He is an indulgence; someone who can relieve pressure on a beleaguered backline by running with the ball but who cannot be relied on to pull out that crucial goal or assist.
In truth, this all boils down to opinion really. Personally, Lazar Markovic offers a unique option to a Premier League side but I’d not go as far as to make him the main man. He is very much an option; a squad player who can add a new dimension to a game.