Liverpool have signed 'an extraordinary talent' in Lazar Markovic, according to a man who watched his Benfica displays with a vested interest week in, week out last season.
Football journalist Luis Pedro Ferreira spent many afternoons throughout 2013-14 at the Estadio Da Luz watching the Reds' new signing in awe while penning match reports on The Eagles' fortunes.
Despite spending just one season at Benfica, the Maisfutebol.pt reporter believes he's seen enough to suggest Markovic has all the attributes to become a star at Anfield.
What kind of player have Liverpool just bought?
An extraordinary talent. The first thing one notices is his speed. The way he carries the ball is quite impressive and really sets him apart, with his head held high and quality in decision making. He's very, very quick with the ball, something I haven't seen since Di Maria played for Benfica - but Markovic is probably even faster. That's his main weapon.
And then, of course, there's his passing quality, due to his good decision making, and in front of goal. He doesn't shoot from distance - he rarely tries to score from outside of the penalty box. But he finishes very well, sometimes with finesse, when he's one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Playing as a winger, one could expect a lot of crosses; however, Markovic rarely crosses the ball - he rarely needed to at Benfica, I must say - because he's not a traditional winger that's always trying to get to the line. His favourite move is coming from the touchline to the inside and he's so, so good playing between the defensive lines, where he usually makes a difference. I think he made huge progress there.
He stopped resolving things by himself and understood what the team needed. When he arrived, he gave away possession a little bit too easily because he used to get the ball and try to solve things by himself. But then he grew up; he was intelligent enough to realise that he didn't have to carry the ball every time, to run with it in every single moment. He could make a simple pass, constructing the offensive, and receive the ball a few moments afterwards in a better position.
All of this is also true regarding his defensive game. When pressing high, his speed is a danger to opponents. If an opponent gets distracted, he's so quick that it will get them into trouble. He learned how to close down and to sacrifice himself for the team too. He matured in tactical terms, no doubt about that.
How did he perform for Benfica last season?
Very well. We had seen glimpses of his talent during pre-season, but we also saw that his game was raw in tactical terms. His first incredible moment - and he had quite a few - was in Lisbon's derby against Sporting.
He had already scored against Gil Vicente a week earlier but people realised he was really special when he scored at Alvalade. The way he carried the ball through defenders was absolutely stunning.
In that same game, Eduardo Salvio got a knee ligament injury. Salvio was Benfica's first choice to play on the right wing but this gave Markovic the opportunity to become a regular. He got minutes, he learned, he progressed and was one of the most influential players in the team. His speed changed Benfica into a dangerous team when counter-attacking and a solid one defending.
He had 49 games for Benfica, scoring seven goals and, one very important thing, he had an impact in big games. The one at Alvalade against Sporting, but also against FC Porto at Da Luz, where he made an assist for Benfica's opening goal in a 2-0 victory.
How quickly did he adapt to Portuguese football after moving from Partizan?
Quick enough because he had to. It was always going to be a working process, but it was accelerated by Toto Salvio's injury. Markovic can also play in a central role, behind the strikers, and he would probably have spent some time there if the Argentinian was fit.
But Salvio's injury meant that Markovic was needed and had to grow up fast. His first months were irregular. He scored against Gil Vicente in the second game of the season and left people with their mouths open at the Lisbon derby. But after that he also had a few games in which he wasn't at what we now know to be his best. Of course, one has to keep in mind Benfica's overall form: despite the wins, the performances weren't that good until January.
His understanding of the game became better and better as the season unfolded, but he had an immediate impact due to his excellent skills and his first two goals - both extremely important in Benfica's season.
Another very important factor was that Benfica had another five Serbians in the first team (Matic and Mitrovic later left) and Markovic's brother, Filip, played in the Benfica B team. There were eight Serbs in total, as Matic's brother, Uros, also played for Benfica B until January.
He can play in several different roles, but were did Benfica play him most?
Benfica played a 4-4-2 formation and Markovic was the right winger. He spent some time on the left and in a central role, as a second striker. Even if he played on the right, he showed up quite often in the middle (with or without the ball), because that's his best move and because he does it so well, when opponents aren't really expecting it.
How have Benfica fans reacted to the deal?
Benfica supporters are used to losing some of their star players at the end of the season. In Markovic's case, they had accepted that, sooner or later, he would leave. Of course, as any other supporter, they are sad to see such a great talent leave.
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How do you see him fitting in here at Liverpool? What will he bring to the Liverpool team?
Tactically speaking, I think he will play on the right because he developed so much as a player there. I imagine a very dangerous team with Markovic and Sturridge using their speed to counter-attack and pressing opponents. He will also be of great help in defence. If anyone has doubts about this, just watch his display in Turin against Juventus.
It will be very interesting to see how Premier League defenders will cope with his speed. He will also bring intensity to Liverpool's game, and that is one of the reasons why he usually plays well in big games.
Just how good can Lazar Markovic become?
This is the most simple question about Markovic: he has all the qualities to be a world-class footballer. He just needs to continue on this path, progressing like he did at Benfica.
Di Maria and James Rodriguez are two wonderkids that have left the Portuguese league in the last four years. The Argentinian is already a star, and the Colombian is proving he will be. I don't know if Markovic is going to reach Di Maria's level - but I do know that he can. And that he learnt faster than Di Maria.
If he played like this at 19, in his first year as a senior, he has everything to become one of football's greatest stars.