- LocationCacak, Serbia
- Squad Number50
Brendan Rodgers added one of Europe’s brightest young stars to his exciting Liverpool squad when versatile Serbian attacker Lazar Markovic became the Reds’ fourth signing of a busy 2014 summer transfer window.
Gifted in possession, blessed with searing acceleration over short and long distances and diligent defensively, the 20-year-old excels on either flank or in a more traditional central position – and his progression to Anfield has been rapid.
Born in Cacak, a central city in Serbia, on March 2, 1994, Markovic’s fledgling football ambitions started locally but before he was a teenager, Partizan Belgrade – one of the country’s biggest and most successful clubs – enrolled Lazar into their academy.
Five years on, their faith bore initial fruit in May 2011, when the forward stepped onto the field for a maiden first-team appearance. Still aged just 17 and wearing No.50 on his shirt, the youngster was introduced for the final 18 minutes of a 2-1 victory over Sloboda Uzice.
The next season, 2011-12, would prove to be his breakthrough in every regard. Now a regular member of the Partizan XI, he rose from the bench to fire his first goal for the side in August 2011 and would add five more from 26 league appearances to help scoop the championship.
Having represented his country at U17 and graduated to U21 level with distinction, senior international recognition arrived in February 2012 – a proud moment for Markovic, as he started a friendly against Armenia and clocked up 69 minutes.
Nine months later, the Serbian celebrated his opening strike at that level; he acrobatically contorted his body to connect with a back-post cross and force home the deadlock-breaker in a 3-1 friendly win against Chile.
Lazar and his club were lifting silverware at the conclusion of the following campaign too, with seven strikes contributing to a successful defence of the Serbian title, and his personal development matured with the experience of Europa League football.
Still at the tender age of 19, by now the rest of the continent had been alerted to the Partizan winger’s special characteristics and speculation surrounding a transfer – perhaps to the Barclays Premier League – was rife.
Ultimately, it was Portuguese giants Benfica, known as a leading club in the honing and fine-tuning of potential, who captured Markovic’s signature. The attacker committed himself to five years at the Estadio da Luz and a new chapter in his career was underway.
A debut for his new employers brought a dramatic stoppage-time goal past Gil Vicente; six days later, Lazar again joined proceedings from the bench and once more found the target in crucial circumstances, this time past Sporting CP.
The campaign was outstanding in every sense for the Serbian and Benfica. He featured in all but four matches as the Portuguese championship was secured by seven points – a third straight title triumph for Markovic. Further celebrations followed with glory in Portugal’s League Cup and FA Cup to complete a domestic treble.
On the European front, the attacker tested his skills five times in the Champions League and subsequently contributed to a run that carried Benfica to the Europa League final in Turin. Suspension forced him to watch from the sidelines, however, as Jorge Jesus’ charges were beaten on penalties by Sevilla.
But Liverpool manager Rodgers had already seen plenty enough of Markovic to warrant serious interest from the Reds, with the Serbia international’s skillset identified as suitable to complement the dynamic options already available at Anfield.
So within weeks of announcing the capture of fellow creative force Adam Lallana from Southampton, Kopites were treated to the confirmation that Lazar had joined the squad after completing the formalities and signing a long-term deal at Melwood.
Since then he has shown flashes of why Brendan Rodgers was so keen on signing him – getting off the mark for the club with a goal in the League Cup quarter-finals in December 2014.
As well as opening his Anfield account, the forward has shown tactical flexibility by adapting to a wing-back role when necessary – something which bodes well for his future under Brendan Rodgers, a manager unafraid to experiment in order to get the very best from his players.