On a warm mid-August day, the Champions of the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich, welcomed Hertha Berlin at their own turf to the gigantic Allianz Arena in Munich. The game was set to be a formality for the champions. Hertha had languished in the previous season under Pal Dardai and were in transition under the newly appointed manager Ante Covic.
The formality was quickly proven to be wrong. The seventy five thousand Bayern fans were left in awe as their team went into the break trailing 2-1.
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Thanks to a Lewandowski masterclass the Bavarian side managed to pull a goal back to secure a draw but it had been far from easy. Hertha’s continued pressing made the Bayern players sweat and commit errors throughout the game.
It was uncomfortable to watch. The Bayern players looked on edge.
Amongst the Hertha players inspiring the charge was the towering Serbian figure Marko Grujic. His long strides ran kilometres around the turf of the Allianz Arena that afternoon. His pressing was relentless. He ran up and down the pitch and charged down every loose ball and every Bayern player in possession. He won tackles left right and centre and inspired attacks with his dazzling runs.
The Serb managed to get himself on the scoresheet too. The goals was thanks to his persistent energy.
Grujic had chased down a long ball upfield to contest a header against Benjamin Pavard. The Frenchman may have won the contest but the loose ball fell to Bosnian Vedad Ibisevic who slid the ball in for Grujic and the Serbian’s long strides left both Bayern’s centre backs Pavard and Sule trailing. Grujic dashed into the box and stormed past Manuel Neuer to smash the ball into the back of the net.
It was a magnificent goal highlighting Grujic’s determination, energy, pace and power.
But it hasn’t been Marko Grujic’s only highlight at Hertha Berlin. The Serbian has been a standout performer for the Berlin side nicknamed the ‘Old Lady’ putting in several man of the match performances since his arrival on loan in January 2019.
Grujic has quickly establishing himself as one of the strongest midfielders in the Bundesliga and his game is constantly evolving. According to Whoscored statistics only Jadon Sancho was rated higher than the Serbian out of the U23 players in the Bundesliga last season.
With his loan spell coming to an end next summer, it is difficult to see Grujic remaining at Hertha. And Liverpool will have a big decision to make.
At Liverpool, Grujic had showed glimpses of his talent in pre-season during his first campaign with the club in the summer of 2016. The looping header in Wembley against Barcelona stands out or the two other long distance strikes which he netted during that pre-season. However, the Serbian was never given a proper chance.
Meanwhile, at Hertha Grujic has thrived and if he continues to do so for the rest of the season it will be hard for Liverpool not to consider giving him a proper and well deserved chance to prove himself with the Reds.
With the majority of Liverpool’s midfield approaching their thirties next summer including Wijnaldum, Henderson and Milner, Liverpool will soon be forced to replace them with younger and more energetic players to maintain Klopp’s aggressive gegenpress style.
Grujic fits the ideal Klopp player. The Serbian is versatile, capable of playing both in a defensive midfield role, the box to box midfielder and the trequartista. His long legs enable him to make quick darting runs forward. With his fast feet, an unusual trait for his 6 ft 3 in height, Grujic has the ability to bamboozle defences and drive the attack.
Grujic can also play in the CDM role where with his physique he tends to win the majority of his aerial duels and breaks up attacks with clever interceptions thanks to his reading of the game. The Serbian often resembles current fan favourite Fabinho when deployed in that role for Hertha.
Going forward Grujic can be compared to former Liverpool favourite Emre Can. Perhaps the Serbian is even better than the current Juventus player. Grujic’s deadly left foot makes him a danger from long range efforts even from outside the box. Whereas Can was often limited with his final ball.
The Serbian is a valuable asset for Liverpool and one they must retain. After all, why spend the time on scouting to find a back-up for the ageing James Milner and Jordan Henderson and then a fortune to replace them when there is a more than adequate back-up already within the club’s set-up in Grujic?
He has the ability to develop into a gem, and playing alongside a much higher quality of players Grujic will surely blossom to fulfil the early hype which he demonstrated during his first pre-season with the club.
Meanwhile retaining the Serbian will also allow the club to invest big money elsewhere in other vital positions during the transfer window next summer.
It is a no brainer. Liverpool must not let Grujic slip from their grasp.