One of the latest Serbian talents to attract huge attention from Europe’s top clubs is the 19-year-old Red Star midfielder Marko Grujic.
Dubbed the new Nemanja Mati?, this youngster has seen his career take a huge step forward in the last couple of months with Red Star, who are understandably proud of their young pearl.
A product of Red Star youth academy, just like his teammate Luka Jovic Marko Grujic has this season impressed not only with his mature performances, but also with his professional on-pitch attitude and is well poised to make a name for himself in the years to come.
Better understanding of his background will offer some deeper insight in how this lad became so composed, and well-grounded player for a boy of such a delicate age.
Marko Grujic passed through all categories at Red Star Belgrade, captaining throughout his generation. The 19-year-old starlet was also a member of the Serbian golden team which won the 2015 FIFA Under 20 World Cup in New Zealand, and despite his young age this Red Star midfielder has already gained plenty of experience.
His club, the fallen giants of the Serbian football, Red Star Belgrade have in recent years dealt with a lot of problems, financial difficulties most of all. The only Serbian club ever to be crowned the European champions have struggled on and off pitch and were being forced to sell their young pearls in order to survive. Such practice has become common in recent history of the Serbian club football in general.
However, Marko Grujic is proving to be the exception to this rule.
Not that he wasn’t close to becoming yet another Serbian jewel to be prematurely left to roam the European waters. It was in 2014 when he was loaned to Kolubara to play for the Serbian minnows on dual ownership with Red Star that he was one step away from making his way out of Red Star.
Grujic was quick to confirm his huge potential and announce himself as the next big thing. Despite his obvious footballing qualities, he seemed surplus to the club’s requirements and was being touted for a €1.5 million transfer to Hamburger SV.
However, having realized the potential which was at their hands, the management of the Belgrade greatest have seemingly taken a turn in their business dealings, deciding to hold on to their most prized possession. Grujic signed a long-term contract that is to keep him in Belgrade until 2018.
Red Star midfielder bloomed this year under the guidance of the new manager, Miodrag Božovi?, former Amkar Perm, FC Moscow, Dynamo Moscow, Rostov and Lokomotiv Moscow boss who was brought in with a sole purpose of returning the Champions League football to Belgrade.
Božovi? gave this boy a chance to shine, allowed him to bloom and develop into a versatile footballer who came under the limelight this term, attracting attention from Europe’s top clubs.
Naturally a deep-lying midfielder, Marko Grujic was originally being deployed mainly as defence-oriented footballer anchoring in the middle of the pitch, which served well enough for all the comparisons with Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Mati?.
Miodrag Božovi? has pushed his player forward in recent weeks, allowing him to demonstrate his attacking potential. Playing just behind the strikers Grujic was allowed to exhibit his creativity, vision and incredible shooting power. Grujic has so far bagged four goals for Red Star and has a couple of assists written next to his name.
He is very strong on ball, technically skilled and possesses great composure and pace. Do not be deceived by his delicate physique, this ‘new Mati?’ has been transformed into the ‘Serbian Paul Pogba’ – a brave player, willing to take responsibility and solve games with his moments of pure brilliance.
Grujic himself commented on the comparisons with the two renowned, world-class midfielders.
Nemanja Mati? makes regular contact with his young compatriot and has even complimented Grujic on his most recent long-distance howler against FK Rad earlier in October. As for Pogba, the 19-year-old dreams of playing together with the French sensation one day, or even as his successor in Juventus, which is the club he holds dear to his heart.
Not that he will not get the chance to play with his idols should he continue to gallop through his development.
Grujic’s most recent performances have alerted Chelsea, Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain who are all keeping close tabs on the Red Star prodigy. Italian minnows Sassuolo have also joined the pack, but will have slim chances of beating the likes of aforementioned household clubs to Grujic’s signature.
Aware of the attention, Red Star are demonstrating determination to hold on to their player.
General manager Zvezdan Terzi? describes Grujic as one of the key players in the team, who has to stay in Belgrade and lead the team to the UEFA Champions League. Terzi? expects a lot of pressure during the winter transfer window, but has made his club’s will public – Grujic will not be sold, at any price.
To conclude, this is where all the comparisons with Pogba also take another perspective since, just like Juventus, Red Star will have plenty of problems trying to keep their gem past January.
About the author – Miloš Markovic
Sports journalist from Serbia, Editor in Cheif at Sportske.net and contributor to FutbolgradLive. Worked with Inforstrada and FIFA covering Serbia’s international games during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.