Lazar Markovic might not yet be a household name but that day isn’t far considering his rapid growth as a player and in stature. After gracing the Europa League with some eye-catchy displays, is Markovic ready to make it big? THT has the scouting report on the Benfica forward.
The first word you would associate with Lazar Markovic is versatile. An attacker with pace, trickery and blessed with intelligence, Markovic is definitely one of the hotter talents across Europe and has been attracting the interest of some of the bigger boys in England. The Premier League clubs missed out on getting a first hand exhibition of the talented Serb in the Europa League final where he was suspended. But his heroics did pave the way for Benfica and in the process alert transfer vultures across Europe.
Having been to the Chelsea facilities for a trip before an expected transfer last summer, having almost signed for Arsenal also last summer and then having been scouted by Liverpool heavily in the past 3-4 months, Lazar Markovic’s rumour profile is star studded to say the least. We take a look at what this promising 20 year old has in his locker that makes him such a hot property.
Lazar Markovic is probably one of the more intelligent forwards for a player his age and one probably needs to see to believe how often he finds himself in a goalscoring position or atleast a shooting position for that matter but his output is fairly poor. Markovic is not a natural goalscorer and it shows. Also the fact that he has never been a regular striker for any side does affect his finishing prowess in a negative way. This should not be interpreted as he’s incapable of finishing, he does score goals, just that he looks out of place in front of goal at times and at the tender age of 20, that can be worked upon with focused training and more opportunities to lead the line all by himself.
A lot of scouts and experts, who have seen Lazar Markovic week in week out, believe he could function at his best behind the striker in the number 10 role. Lazar probably doesn’t have those eye-of-the-needle passes in his locker but he does well enough to sync with the striker. His intelligence means he looks to speed up the momentum with quick interchanges and combinations. Being a wide player for such large chunks in his career he often draws out wide in case the centre of the park is choked and looks for movement inside the box to find with a low driven cross or just a cut back or an old fashioned conventional cross or even look for an overlap to combine with. Apart from that he does maintain short small passes without looking to over-complicate things.
Pace and Movement
The first thing that will catch your eye about Lazar Markovic is his pace. With an envious burst of acceleration Markovic can get behind the defence in the blink of an eye and it is undoubtedly his best asset. With clever off ball movement, the Serb tries his best to optimize his strong point. Even when on the ball, his close control is impressive and so is his touch which means he can channelize his pace into end product rather than making despairing donkey runs up and down the channels. His running which is more or less lateral as of now will only become more dynamic with maturity. If anything, with more playing time Lazar Markovic will hone his knack to make diagonal runs and runs in the channels freeing his marker. With raw pace to burn and top notch acceleration to accompany, there is not much he can improve apart from his movement which though good could be much more dangerous under proper guidance and training.
Link up play
The young Serb has good passing skills and when often deployed on the wing nurtures a wonderful relationship with not only the striker and his fullback but also the central midfielders as he often tends to get drawn in centrally to be more involved in the build up play. His understanding with the midfield is impressive and he does tend to bring in more players into the game. Being not much of a dribbler, he relies heavily on interchanges and linkups with the other attackers and midfielders to participate in the buildup. He doesn’t really have a good hold up play to bring players into the game but he does enough with his intelligent movement and passing, highlighting his relative unselfishness. Something that will act in his favour at both Liverpool and Chelsea or any European powerhouse for that matter.
Having played as a winger/wing forward on either flank, his defensive education is in place. The execution part however isn’t as consistent. Make no mistake, Markovic works extremely hard off the ball and when not in possession would do his best to win the ball and recover especially after losing the ball. The 20 year old has an impressive tactical discipline as he is always willing to support his fullback or even drop down in midfield to contribute defensively and put in a foot to break up play, when played centrally up top as a striker. His bags of energy means work ethic isn’t usually a problem though his concentration might be a little frail at times.
There is a definite reason why most coaches from Grant at Belgrade to Jesus at Benfica have used Lazar Markovic in wider areas as compared to the central striking position: his finishing is probably not the best. Having said that, he has come leaps and bounds in the last couple of seasons and there is no doubt he will only improve but right now he is probably not good enough to be a first choice striker at a big club. His 175 cm tall structure means he isn’t much of a force in the air either and often comes up short in aerial duels and is thus not the best header of the ball. Despite that he does have a good leap in the air.
VERDICT: Lazar Markovic needs more playing time to justify the hype surrounding him
Benfica’s long European campaigns mean most of their star players fall under some or the other top club’s radar and Markovic is no exception. Despite not being involved as heavily during the season, the spark about Lazar Markovic has been enough to capture most scouts’ imaginations. Jorge Jesus and Benfica would be hoping to keep the diminutive Serb and away from the clutches of Liverpool and Chelsea for another season at least and develop him into a precious and valuable footballer for the transfer market to engulf in. By then, Markovic would look to establish himself as a first team regular and focus on improving and tweaking his finishing and dribbling abilities. Small fine tunings before making the big jump. Liverpool can wait.