You’d be forgiven for thinking everything was hunky dory at Liverpool.
Sitting pretty, joint top of the Premier League with a new-found defensive resilience, the Reds are undeniably on the up.
But one man is being left behind.
Lazar Markovic’s Liverpool career is effectively over nine months before it’s officially meant to end.
The enigmatic winger has entered the final year of his contract, four years after his ill-fated move to Anfield as part of the infamous post-Luis Suarez transfer splurge.
He arrived from Benfica in 2014 a bristling £20m 20-year-old, a Golden Boy nominee and one of the most coveted young wingers in Europe.
Fast forward four years and he’s been banished from the first team, effectively marooned in the wilderness of footballing limbo.
Markovic was meant to be an Anderlecht player by now.
Liverpool accepted a heavy loss on the £20m they forked out for the Serb, agreeing a £2.9m fee with the Belgian side who he spent the last six months of last season with on loan.
But the move collapsed, with the Anderlecht manager slamming Markovic despite the ‘crazy effort’ his club put into acquire him.
Hein Vanhaezebrouck said: “Our president and sports director did everything to convince Markovic.
“They almost did a crazy effort for the player, but it wasn’t enough. It’s his own fault that the deal fell through.”
Markovic denies any financial motivation behind pulling the plug, instead opting to sit out the rest of his £35k-week deal at Anfield.
But Jurgen Klopp has taken a different approach.
Markovic was a notable absentee from both Liverpool’s official Premier League and Champions League squads this season, with even Loris Karius being named in the latter.
Instead of reintegrating himself to the Reds setup the 24-year-old has been ordered to train with the Under 23s at Kirkby, well away from the first-team training ground at Melwood.
Loan spells at Fenerbahce, Sporting Lisbon, Hull and Anderlecht did little to alter opinions in the last three seasons.
In other words Klopp doesn’t want anything to do with a player Liverpool have been desperately trying to erase all trace of.
For players of Markovic’s age, ‘game time’ is the priority in a make or break period of their careers.
But instead of playing regularly at any competitive level, he’s staring down the barrel of the the abyss.
The clock now ticks slowly towards January; his next realistic opportunity to find first-team football.
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