Liverpool legend Ronnie Whelan is anticipating a breakthrough year for Marko Grujic following an injury plagued 2016/2017 season for the Serbian.
The midfielder has been at the forefront of pre-season analysis so far with many expecting him to become a valuable squad player for the Reds.
Grujic proved to be a standout performer in the club’s preparations last summer and continued that trend on Wednesday with an impressive display in his team’s friendly against Tranmere, in which he scored with an excellent long-range strike.
Whelan believes the time is now for the 21-year-old to make a statement and challenge for a first team spot under Jurgen Klopp.
“I thought he was very, very good in the game I saw him at Tranmere Rovers,” he told Liverpoolfc.com.
“There is a lot of good stuff about him, his control, his passing and his vision. His link-up play with Georginio Wijnaldum and Daniel Sturridge was good.”
“Now is the year for him. This is his year to kick-on and to start getting closer every week to the first team, be on the bench, come on and do something and show the manager what he can. It’s a big pre-season for him.”
“He’s got great vision. He doesn’t have four or five touches on the ball unless he has got something in his head and he’s a clever footballer.”
“I liked his goal against Tranmere. He knew straight away [what he was going to do] because when the ball came into him he knew he just had to get the ball out at his feet for a chance to have a shot on goal, which he did bottom corner. Great goal!”
“For me his main attribute is his brain, his footballing brain because he sees passes quickly.”
Grujic boasts a strong reputation thanks to his bright 2016 pre-season alone and will get the chance to prove himself once again in the upcoming Asia Trophy.
A useful blend of power, athleticism, composure and technique sets him in good stead to mould into a box-to-box asset capable of fulfilling Klopp’s desire to strengthen the spine of his team.
Aside from his obvious physical advantages, he had the forward-thinking and, as Whelan pointed out, an intelligence to his game.
Reds can expect to see a lot more from Grujic next season, providing he can stay fit.