Opinion: Can Marko Grujic make the grade at Anfield next season?

The youngster has already left his imprint on Serbian football at the tender age of 20 but will his transition to the Premier League and the famous Merseyside club be as smooth?

Opinion: Can Marko Grujic make the grade at Anfield next season?
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They seem to crave success in Belgrade.  Another year, another title winning team and at this stage it's more than just about winning the title, it's how you win it.

After agreeing terms with Liverpool in January, Marko Grujic stayed on to help Red Star Belgarde go unbeaten with 20 wins and two draws all season.  

Loyal to a club very close to his heart, a club he first joined at nine, who developed him through their renowned youth system which has produced some terrific players over the years, such as the former Serbia captian and Inter Milan legend Dejan Stankovic.  

Born into the spotlight

Making his first team debut at 17, he developed into a star very quickly, almost too quickly some would argue.  Red Star sent him out on loan to a 2nd tier side for more experience.

They had to be careful with him as somebody so promising may have lost it all at this early stage of their career, but Grujic returned stronger when Red Star were weaker, the club almost £40 million in debt and in serious trouble of losing everything except traits of loyalty, desire and passion which they instilled in their young players.

After key players were sold to make up debts, Grujic got his chance and what did he do? He took it with both hands of course, pulling the club out of the darkness and into the light, operating in the No.10 position and fast becoming the focal point of the squad.

He never really looked back after that, his career lifting off with an U20 World Cup win with Serbia a year earlier. The pinnacle of a young footballer's career many would think, only special teams win World Cups, especially the likes of little old Serbia, who were they to go and win a world title? Grujic didn't seem to care, he was a born winner. 

Klopp comes calling:

Grujic's performances didn't go unnoticed as he quickly progressed to become one of the most sought after young talents in European Football.

Any Serbian World Cup winner cannot just be taken lightly and Jürgen Klopp showed his deep admiration for Grujic by calling him personally on the phone to convince him to join and outline his plans for him. Grujic later remarked that "when a coach like that calls you personally, that's the greatest privilege."  

Klopp showed intent, wanting to work with Grujic straight away, to get the most out of him in as short a period of time as possible. In many ways, Grujic is at the peak of his career at such a young age and he remarked himself that Klopp's "vision is that I should be something between a No.6 and a No.10."

It is very interesting to note Grujic's immediate personal demand when he was agreeing terms with Liverpool. He stated that "my only request was that I didn't want to be loaned out, I just want to play for Liverpool." This speaks volumes about the guy, he's a player who wants to always be around, striving for more out of himself and would rather work his way into the team by sitting it out on the bench if he has to, compared to playing week in, week out for a smaller side.

In the modern age of money and sponsorship in football, Grujic sticks out like a sore thumb, old school as such, but he'll always have your back. The Liverpool fans will appreciate this greatly. As he says so himself, "I will have to show what I am made of. I am very confident."  Strong-willed, he's well able to deal with the pressure a Liverpool move will bring. 

How will his style of play fit in to the Liverpool team?

In his homeland, Grujic has been compared to fellow Serbian star Nemanja Matic who has made the big time at Chelsea. They are of similar physique and sit at the base of midfield, breaking up play but also setting up attacks at will.

At 6ft 3ins, Grujic has a big frame but he is also very versatile. A versatile player is every manager's dream. They are very hard to find but it's even harder to find a talented one, so I feel Klopp will be quietly confident he has found a hidden gem.

Grujic has a good range of passing but also has the skills, technique and shooting ability to be used further forward, showcasing his adaptability. He operated in the No.10 role for Red Star Belgrade this season but I feel Klopp will want him as a deep-lying playmaker at Liverpool. He usually likes a two or three man midfield with two box-to-box players and a defensive alternative, and Grujic could fit in here perfectly with his shuttling runs from one box to another coming to the fore.

He is ahead of his years and has physicality similar to Emre Can, which could certainly give him a head start on Klopp's other midfield options. Grujic recenly remarked that "I want to be able to go into a duel with anyone." He is a player who doesn't want to be thrown to one side as he means business and he wants to become a serious part of Klopp's long term plans.

He loves the Premier League because of the "energy and the atmosphere", a factor he won't fully appreciate until he experiences it for the first time. For all the positives however, there are also a couple of negatives as regards the gulf in quality between Serbian and English football domestically. It's a different intensity, with higher quality teams and it won't be a walk in the park for the youngster who will have to step up to the mark.

Many people believe the youngsters lack of international experience means he hasn't really been tested at the highest level yet while Liverpool's range of midfield options is quite large meaning Grujic will have to come in and make an instant impact to stake a claim for a starting place.  

What they say in Serbia:

Grujic has had a crammed career which just seems to be getting better and better, from winning the dometic title in Serbia with his boyhood club, to being part of an U20 World Cup winning squad, He  has spoken on numerous occasions of "living a dream".  His "heart almost stopped" on meeting the Liverpool squad and he remarked how "most of my dreams have come true." The final piece in the jigsaw for Grujic would be to "play regularly for Liverpool, become a national team regular, win the World Cup and come back to Red Star Belgrade at the end of my career."

Football experts in Serbia are very proud of how far he has come with his U20 World Cup winning manager stating that " he's not a born leader, but he's not afraid to play big games." Serbian football journalist Vlastimir Stevanovic's comments also re-emphasised just how much they think of Grujic as a player in Serbia as he remarked that "he is very highly rated , with some people calling him the greatest talent to come out of Red Star Belgrade since Dejan Stankovic." 

I'm sure Grujic would be flattered to be compared to a player who won five Serie A titles and one UEFA Champions League with Inter Milan but the hard work starts here. If he can settle into Anfield quite quickly and works closely with Jürgen Klopp, The Reds could have a fantastic prospect on their hands at Anfield.