Reports last night emerged in the Echo that £20m signing Lazar Markovic had flown to Turkey to thrash out terms on a season-long loan deal with Fenerbahce.
The Super League side will pay the entirety of the 21-year-old’s wages (how kind of them!) and offer him the first-team football we currently cannot.
So with Mario Balotelli (a £16m signing) leaving on loan for AC Milan, Liverpool are agreeing to lend £36m worth of talent around Europe this season. That’s higher than our record transfer fee, and with Milan not even covering Balotelli’s entire contract, we’re paying for the privilege.
Another way of putting it is that all of the £65m we received from the Luis Suarez sale last summer was painfully wasted. Broken down, that’s £20m on Markovic who’s leaving on loan, £16m on Balotelli who’s left on loan, £4m on Rickie Lambert who’s left, £25m on Adam Lallana who’s crocked and £20m on Dejan Lovren. £65m.
So while it’s important not to detract too heavily from our positive start to the season on the pitch, this decision on Markovic just doesn’t make sense.
We’ve got four competitions to crack this term and by sending the winger out on loan our squad becomes immediately weaker. Markovic hasn’t made the bench yet during our first three fixtures, stuck behind Adam Lallana, Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Jordon Ibe in the pecking order – but he’ll undeniably have been needed in 2015/16.
The Europa League draw is made today and represents a competition that would have been absolutely perfect for Markovic to start every game of. That’s six guaranteed fixtures, supplemented by League Cup games, and having drawn Carlisle at home in the Third Round, he’d likely be needed for at least two of those.
At the start of 2014/15, Harry Kane couldn’t get in Tottenham’s Premier League side, but he took the Europa League by storm – honing his skills against weak opposition and eventually giving Mauricio Pochettino no choice but to start him in the regular first-team. A year later he’s an England international and Spurs’ most important player.
The chance would have been there for Markovic to impress and prove his worth.
Without Markovic, Brendan Rodgers might have to pick his ‘Premier League’ players in Europe and the League Cup. Now, Coutinho and Firmino may have to play Thursday/Sunday matches in the run up to Christmas. This can only affect us negatively in the second half of the season.
What’s more, Adam Lallana is crocked. Injuries decimated his debut campaign and a thigh strain kept him out of the Arsenal draw. Skipper Jordan Henderson’s injury is further proof that a deep, strong squad is needed, but we’re actively weakening it instead of maintaining it.
With Lallana out and Markovic leaving on loan, we only have three available attacking midfielders for the three attacking midfield spots we’re likely to need at home to West Ham on Saturday. Firmino, Coutinho and Jordon Ibe. The latter has not replicated his pre-season form yet this term either, and was shoddy as a substitute verses the Gunners, while Firmino looked tired as soon as the second-half began. Square pegs should be used in square holes, and we shouldn’t be considering James Milner and Daniel Sturridge as potential wing options, either.
Promising Under-21 players Sheyi Ojo and Harry Wilson have also left on loan, so Markovic’s importance as a backup option is obvious. Many would even argue that following Ibe and Lallana’s starts to the season, he should be selected ahead of them anyway. But we’re sending him to Turkey for a year instead. It doesn’t make sense.
The report suggests that Rodgers wants Markovic to play regularly in Turkey, before bringing back a more honed, experienced player to Merseyside next summer. But he’s cutting his nose off to spite his face. We’ve got a Europa League campaign to navigate, one in which we’ll need our £20m signing, frankly.
And what’s more – there literally isn’t an example anywhere in modern football of a big money signing (such as Markovic) failing at a club, leaving on loan for a season, but eventually returning and proving he was worth the money.
Even the brilliant Kevin de Bruyne couldn’t crack Chelsea when he returned to the club after a loan spell in Germany.
It just doesn’t happen. If Markovic does well in Turkey, he’ll likely want to stay there and having not had him around for a year, we’ll probably take the money and cut our losses. If he fails in Turkey, we’ll want him back even less.
Finally, if we really were intent on aiding Markovic’s development, why are we not sending him to a Premier League club?! If we truly see him as a future Liverpool player then he needs regular football in England and not the far, far weaker Turkish league. It’s a calamitous idea, truly.
Jordan Chamberlain – Editor of Empire of the Kop – @Jordan_AC90