Markovic magic silences critics – for now

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“Markovic is a football rebel and people have to show patience with players like him.”

The words of Benfica coach Jorge Jesus will be resonating with Liverpool supporters after seeing their £20million summer signing deliver a stunning performance in the club’s 1-0 win at Sunderland on Saturday. Ludicrous though it might seem, there were some already willing to write off the Serbian talent.

Avram Grant’s view that “apart from Ronaldo and Messi, Markovic is one of the best talents I’ve ever seen at 19 years of age” had brought excitement when it reverberated among the club’s worldwide fanbase before the new boy had kicked a ball. By winter, it was perceived to reveal more about the man saying it than the player in question.

But on the ground where Jordan Henderson’s performances persuaded Liverpool to part with a huge sum for his services only to take many months to come close to justifying the fee, perhaps it was appropriate that Markovic should choose this as the scene to offer a brilliant reminder of his qualities.

You’d certainly have been hard pushed to find a soul willing to question his quality in the away end at the Stadium of Light on Saturday lunchtime. Denied a penalty after eluding Was Brown early on, Markovic was not to be discouraged and a penetrative run soon after yielded the opening goal when his persistence culminated in a stabbed finish through the legs of Costel Pantilimon.

It was his first Premier League goal and despite being an introverted character who never celebrates his goals, Markovic is an extrovert with the ball at his feet and with confidence coursing through his veins, he was bringing his best now. An audacious scissor-kick strike of the bouncing ball hit the underside of the crossbar on the half-hour mark.

With his pace, dribbling ability and flair for the spectacular, Markovic was the game’s standout player. This was the young man Liverpool had bought. The two-time title winner with Partizan Belgrade who team-mate Vladimir called the “perfect player”. The treble winner at Benfica who Nemanja Matic claimed “could be one of Europe’s best players in his position”.

It seems fair to assume Markovic did not envisage that position to be wing-back. Seldom since the days of David Ginola at Newcastle can a player of such flamboyance have been asked to take on the role. And yet, the comments of Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers upon concluding the deal for the Serb would seem to indicate the possibility was in his thoughts from the outset.

“Lazar is flexible to play a number of positions,” said Rodgers. “I like the way he attacks games and is always positive and looking to make something happen. He will fit in with the way we play at Liverpool.” He went on to describe Markovic as someone “hungry to get better” but the new position has been a test of that application.

After all, having played every minute of his professional club career in teams that went on to win the title, Markovic had become accustomed to finding himself with the odds stacked in his favour. With Liverpool struggling, the rawness to his game was tested and that tendency to fade from games – as is a young winger’s wont – risked being exposed.

On Saturday, Markovic showed impressive resilience against the busy Italy international Emanuele Giaccherini. He made more clearances than any other player on the pitch in the first half and even dispossessed Patrick van Aanholt inside the Sunderland half to set up an opportunity for Steven Gerrard just before the break. His work-rate was also impressive throughout – making 77 high-intensity runs, by far the most of any Liverpool player.

Of course, seeing the absolute best that Markovic has to offer seems unlikely given his attacking potential. But he wouldn’t be the first young player to make the breakthrough at a big club in an unfamiliar position before going on to assume a starring role.

Despite the comments by his old Benfica boss, Markovic has shown little signs of rebelling in frustration at the current situation. But Jesus was right about one thing – the youngster does deserve time. And there were signs on Saturday that this patience could one day be rewarded in sensational style.

Markovic magic silences critics – for now

admin

“Markovic is a football rebel and people have to show patience with players like him.”

The words of Benfica coach Jorge Jesus will be resonating with Liverpool supporters after seeing their £20million summer signing deliver a stunning performance in the club’s 1-0 win at Sunderland on Saturday. Ludicrous though it might seem, there were some already willing to write off the Serbian talent.

Avram Grant’s view that “apart from Ronaldo and Messi, Markovic is one of the best talents I’ve ever seen at 19 years of age” had brought excitement when it reverberated among the club’s worldwide fanbase before the new boy had kicked a ball. By winter, it was perceived to reveal more about the man saying it than the player in question.

But on the ground where Jordan Henderson’s performances persuaded Liverpool to part with a huge sum for his services only to take many months to come close to justifying the fee, perhaps it was appropriate that Markovic should choose this as the scene to offer a brilliant reminder of his qualities.

You’d certainly have been hard pushed to find a soul willing to question his quality in the away end at the Stadium of Light on Saturday lunchtime. Denied a penalty after eluding Was Brown early on, Markovic was not to be discouraged and a penetrative run soon after yielded the opening goal when his persistence culminated in a stabbed finish through the legs of Costel Pantilimon.

It was his first Premier League goal and despite being an introverted character who never celebrates his goals, Markovic is an extrovert with the ball at his feet and with confidence coursing through his veins, he was bringing his best now. An audacious scissor-kick strike of the bouncing ball hit the underside of the crossbar on the half-hour mark.

With his pace, dribbling ability and flair for the spectacular, Markovic was the game’s standout player. This was the young man Liverpool had bought. The two-time title winner with Partizan Belgrade who team-mate Vladimir called the “perfect player”. The treble winner at Benfica who Nemanja Matic claimed “could be one of Europe’s best players in his position”.

It seems fair to assume Markovic did not envisage that position to be wing-back. Seldom since the days of David Ginola at Newcastle can a player of such flamboyance have been asked to take on the role. And yet, the comments of Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers upon concluding the deal for the Serb would seem to indicate the possibility was in his thoughts from the outset.

“Lazar is flexible to play a number of positions,” said Rodgers. “I like the way he attacks games and is always positive and looking to make something happen. He will fit in with the way we play at Liverpool.” He went on to describe Markovic as someone “hungry to get better” but the new position has been a test of that application.

After all, having played every minute of his professional club career in teams that went on to win the title, Markovic had become accustomed to finding himself with the odds stacked in his favour. With Liverpool struggling, the rawness to his game was tested and that tendency to fade from games – as is a young winger’s wont – risked being exposed.

On Saturday, Markovic showed impressive resilience against the busy Italy international Emanuele Giaccherini. He made more clearances than any other player on the pitch in the first half and even dispossessed Patrick van Aanholt inside the Sunderland half to set up an opportunity for Steven Gerrard just before the break. His work-rate was also impressive throughout – making 77 high-intensity runs, by far the most of any Liverpool player.

Of course, seeing the absolute best that Markovic has to offer seems unlikely given his attacking potential. But he wouldn’t be the first young player to make the breakthrough at a big club in an unfamiliar position before going on to assume a starring role.

Despite the comments by his old Benfica boss, Markovic has shown little signs of rebelling in frustration at the current situation. But Jesus was right about one thing – the youngster does deserve time. And there were signs on Saturday that this patience could one day be rewarded in sensational style.