Lazar Markovic fits the bill for Brendan Rodgers' Anfield family

Expensive, inexperienced – but Serb might be more suited to Liverpool than Mario. Just watch out if you’re one of his friends

Lazar Markovic says “I play like I talk”, and if you judge him just on his conversation, you would imagine that he plays with considerable confidence.

Liverpool’s new £20 million midfielder is confident that they can win the Premier League and he will in time be acclaimed as one of the best players in it. He does not say it outlandishly. This is not Mido surveying the Egypt squad before the Africa Cup of Nations and announcing: “I am a Premier League footballer, they are amateurs.” It is just matter-of-fact; a quiet statement of intent.

Markovic first began making statements of intent when he was very young. While still a teenager, he won three Serbian championships with Partizan Belgrade and followed it up by winning the double with Benfica. Ask him if this rush of silverware is where his confidence stems from and the reply is “most likely”.

Like many of the players in whom Brendan Rodgers invests his faith, he arrives not quite fully formed as a player. You can see what attracted the manager when Benfica beat Tottenham 3-1 in the Europa League in March. There were electric flashes of pace and skill. But the final pass or the decisive shot was missing.

Liverpool's new signing Lazar Markovic Compared to another imminent new signing, the altogether more complete player Mario Balotelli, the 20-year-old Serb may already be a little more mature as a person. But his family, who have accompanied him to Merseyside, remain close.

He says he was always bound to be a footballer; there were no other options. Cacak, a small city a couple of hours from Belgrade, is famous for its monasteries and producing footballers, and Lazar was not destined to become a monk.

His father was a serious amateur, his elder brother Filip, like Lazar, was signed by Partizan and Benfica but only played for the reserves. “Partizan saw my brother first,” says Lazar. “He was a big talent but, because he was still young, the family were not keen for him to go to Belgrade on his own, so I ended up going with him. 

“They were more interested in my brother at first but they knew about the family and followed us, so I ended up playing for Partizan. I started playing [for the first team] at 17 and won a few titles very quickly.”

Lazar agreed to go to Benfica partly because the then Manchester United captain, Nemanja Vidic, said they had the most fervent fans in Portugal and partly because they agreed to take Filip.

Brendan Rodgers looks on from the sidelines Brendan Rodgers is optimistic about Markovic's future at Liverpool Lazar’s hero as a boy was Gianfranco Zola. Chelsea had long been tracking his progress and had a first option if Benfica decided to sell. Markovic was always likely to come to England – the surprise was that he  went to Anfield not Stamford Bridge.

“I am not money oriented,” he says. “If I were motivated by money, I would have gone somewhere else, but I liked Liverpool, it appealed to me. I talk to Nemanja all the time but he wasn’t the reason I went to Liverpool. I made my own decision.

“I watched Liverpool all the time last season. They were very good and luck played its part as to why they didn’t win the League. They should have been champions. I was voted one of the best players in Serbia and Portugal and I hope I will be recognised as one of the best in the Premier League. I believe I will.”

A clue to why Markovic may have found Anfield a more fruitful arena than Stamford Bridge lies in the personalities of the two managers. Jose Mourinho tends to buy ready-made footballers; his treatment of the young Balotelli at Internazionale was testament to his impatience with players who need developing.

Daniel Sturridge celebrates after scoring the winner for Liverpool against Southampton Daniel Sturridge celebrates after scoring the winner for Liverpool against Southampton As someone who made his name as a youth-team coach under Mourinho, Rodgers has very different methods. Much of his spending since arriving on Merseyside has been on young, technically gifted and often slightly built footballers – Fabio Borini, Oussama Assaidi, Samed Yesil and Iago Aspas, None has made any real impact, and of that type of player, only Philippe Coutinho could be counted an unqualified success. Markovic might be the second.

A man just out of his teens moving country for the third time in as many years might be expected to start slowly. That Lazar learnt Portuguese during his year in Lisbon meant he could talk to Liverpool’s Brazilian pair, Coutinho and Lucas Leiva. He laughs that Steven Gerrard has never stopped giving him advice.

One piece of advice might be to control his temper. Markovic was named in the Europa League team of the year but he watched the final from the stands in Turin, dismissed in the semi-final by Mark Clattenburg for fighting on the bench with Juventus’s Mirko Vucinic.

“It was a mistake,” he said. “The other guy is a friend. I was trying to calm the situation down, be the peacemaker. We did appeal but it was no use. I don’t think my friend helped me out much.”

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor