The talented youngster Liverpool career looks over before it got started.
Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic looks set for a permanent transfer away from the club this summer. The news that Lazio and AC Milan are circling for his signature marks a disappointing end for the youngster’s Liverpool career. Highly rated and initially impressive in some pre-season performances, there was hope the youngster would break through to the first team at some point.
If he does leave, his story will be yet another example of a so-called wonder kid failing to make the grade. It also serves as a warning to all of those demanding more game time for youngsters like Harry Wilson and Ryan Kent.
Grujic is the latest in a long line of youngsters, be they foreign or home grown, to struggle with the hype, demands and expectation of being at a big club. From Richie Partridge to Dani Pacheco, there has always been a supposed super star in the ranks. However, once they were given a debut and some exposure to the first team, they often fall away and leave the club by the back door.
For every Gerrard, there is at least one Jon Welsh in the youth ranks and it is often very difficult for these lesser gifted youngsters to supplant their first team rivals. With expectation so high, there is seldom room for passengers and a lot of these youngsters have to content themselves with a reduced role or a loan move for some game time.
Liverpool has a history of bringing through good young talent from the academy, but in recent years it has been harder to do as there is so little room for error in the Premier League. Trent Alexander-Arnold had a fantastic season as he established himself as a first team player much to the joy of the fans. However, good as he was, there were moments when his lack of experience lead to some basic errors. Often other players could bail him out, but the point is, even the most exceptionally gifted youngsters are raw and learning. There is not much room in the first eleven for too many apprentices with the stakes so high.
It became a slogan for the anti-Benitez brigade in 2009-10 as things went horribly wrong for the club. “Give that Pacheco a game, he’s boss mate!” You would often role your eyes and bite your tongue as people claimed to have followed his reserve career in detail and were adamant he was the answer.
Liverpool were so poor in those days, that these so-called experts failed to see the flawed logic in their demands. If Pacheco had been good enough, there is no way he wouldn’t have been playing. In fact it was a damning indictment for his future that he couldn’t get in to such a pedestrian side.
The coaching staff see these players week in week out and are well aware of their strengths and weaknesses. It is clear Grujic is a talented player, but his lack of pace and heavy touch have been evident in the few games he has played and even as a squad player, the required level has risen exponentially at the club over the past two and half seasons.
Trusting in youth?
This summer there have been cries of derision as Liverpool have been strongly linked to Swiss international Xherdan Shakiri. Some fans have claimed the alleged pursuit of the Stoke winger is unnecessary as we already have Harry Wilson on the books.
However, you only need look at Grujic’s lack of opportunities to tell you how far off Wilson must be from the first team. The Serbian was shipped off on loan to a promotion chasing side where he nestled in nicely to Cardiff City’s midfield. The club was chasing second to avoid the perils of the plays offs and in doing so, needed to maintain near title winning form for most of Grujic’s six months there. The Serbian impressed with some mature displays and subsequently got himself a place at the World Cup with his country.
Wilson on the other hand spent four months at a club that finished eighteenth in The Championship. Although Hull flirted with relegation they were never in serious danger of going down, so Wilson perhaps benefited from the diminished expectations at the KCOM Stadium and was able to flourish. The Welsh international performed well on Humberside and was clearly superior to the level he was playing at. He is obviously a quality player, but again, the increased expectation at Liverpool for the coming season is going to be against him. Should we really be putting out faith in a largely untested twenty-one year old?
Grujic, who unlike Wilson, has played sixteen times for the first team has the likes of AC Milan and Lazio coveting his signature. If he were to go, there is every chance that he could emulate the likes of Suso and Connor Coady and forge a good career at a good level. Unfortunately for the Serb, it doesn’t look like this career will be at Anfield, such is the ruthless nature of life at the big clubs.