Unlike some of the names that have been linked with Town over the past eighteen months, Liverpool midfielder Marko Grujic may be a much more familiar name.
The Serbian Under 21 international scored against Town for Liverpool in a pre-season friendly and reports this week suggest that he could be joining Town on loan in January.
Who is Marko Grujic?
The Red Star years
Born in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, Marko Grujic’s journey towards professional football was a pretty straightforward one.
At the age of 11, Grujic joined the Red Star Belgrade academy where he slowly progressed through the ranks as he emerged as one of Serbia’s brightest young talents.
Whilst Grujic did make his debut at the age of 18, it was during the 2015-16 Prva Liga season that Grujic came into his own.
Playing in the heart of the Red Star midfield, Grujic was crucial for a Red Star side that remained unbeaten for the first half of the season.
This string of impressive performances by Marko Grujic attracted the attention of clubs all across Europe. However, it was Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool that won the race for the highly-rated Serbian starlet.
Having joined Liverpool for a fee around the £5.1 million mark in January, the Serbian midfielder was immediately loaned back to Red Star Belgrade where he impressed once again as he was named in the Prva Liga team of the season.
However, with only seven Premier League appearances to his name, the Serbian midfielder has struggled to make an impression at Liverpool.
In search of regular first team football, Marko Grujic’s agent has explicitly stated that he wants the Serbian midfielder to leave on loan in the January transfer window to an English club.
This news has put Town on red alert and reports suggest that “Town could be at the front of the queue for his services”.
The Expert’s view
In response to the reports that Marko Grujic could be on his way to West Yorkshire in January, I got in touch with Neil Atkinson of The Anfield Wrap to get his views on the potential move and what his overall thoughts were of the Serbian midfielder:
“Marko Grujic is a player who first and foremost needs games of football. He arrived at Liverpool as a young winner, a centre midfielder who won the league with Red Star Belgrade and there was general excitement around him.
He’s never managed to properly assert himself on the field in a competitive match for The Reds. He seems a player far too good for the U23s but unable to force regular starts for a top six side.
In patches he has looked a powerful midfielder with a good finish and strong attacking movement but at times he has looked to have dodgy positioning and a clumsy touch.
The thing about dodgy positioning and a clumsy touch is that it can be addressed through playing games but it leads to not being picked.
During the 16/17 season, Grujic had his injury issues but seemed to slip down the pecking order behind Ovie Ejaria.
I’d love to see him play for Huddersfield as it could be the making of him. His physical stature is a positive as is the way he attacks the box”.
Should Town look to sign him?
On face value, I would say, yes. The Serbian midfielder very much fits the profile of a David Wagner signing.
Firstly, at the age of 21, it is safe to say that Marko Grujic is far from the finished product and the inconsistencies that Neil speaks of above are testament to that.
However, I’m not sure we can say that any signing that David Wagner has made over the past two seasons has been the finished product, the closest thing to that being Aaron Mooy.
Instead, David Wagner has often cherry-picked players from the peripheries of other clubs, particularly players with a point to prove.
He has then provided them with a nurturing competitive environment and importantly offered them opportunities to thrive by playing to their strengths.
This approach, which has seen Wagner be so successful with young talent could, under the right circumstances be replicated to harness Grujic’s potential.
In terms of how Grujic would fit into the side, with power and physicality but also a dynamism when going forward, the steely Serbian would slot into the base of Town’s midfield to provide defensive cover and bridge the gap between the midfield and attack.
Alongside Aaron Mooy, Grujic’s athleticism and dynamism would free up more space for the Australian midfielder to be at his influential best by dictating the play and orchestrating Town’s attacks from deep.
This means that we could see Marko Grujic arrive, not just as another option for David Wagner to have at his disposal, but as a player challenging for the starting eleven from the off.
Many were surprised that Town used only one of their two Premier League loans in the summer which saw Kasey Palmer return.
Personally I thought that the second Premier League loanee would arrive from Liverpool but it would be Joe Gomez rather than Marko Grujic.
However, considering the fact that Philip Billing is unlikely to recover from his ankle surgery until mid-January at the earliest, the arrival of another central midfielder to add further strength and depth to the squad wouldn’t go amiss.
Therefore, it is no surprise to see that Town are so interested in the Serbian midfielder who certainly has the talent and ability to be a success story at Town.