The first transfer of the Jürgen Klopp era looks to have hit a snag – the player’s dad doesn’t want him to leave his current club and claims he has a trick up his sleeve to prevent it happening.
The player is Marko Grujic and the deal Liverpool are trying to get done would see cash-strapped Red Star Belgrade pocket €6m now (around £4.3m) but keep the player until the end of the season. Liverpool would pay €7m (£5.1m) for the player, with Red Star Belgrade giving the Anfield side €1m of it back immediately as a loan fee.
There is also a 10% sell-on clause which would benefit the Serbian side should the Reds cash in on the youngster at a later date.
Marko’s dad Goran, however, is unhappy about where the deal leaves his son and the pressure he claims the teenager has been put under to sign up for the move.
Grujic Senior claims Red Star are trying to “destroy” his son: “I won’t allow them to destroy my boy – I’m speaking about people who are in charge of the club.”
Goran is unhappy that the powers-that-be are using his son as a quick fix for their financial problems: “Everyone turned their back on them, as they’ve spent all the money the club has had, and they see a solution in Marko’s transfer. That’s why there’s so much pressure on him.”
The 19-year-old now finds himself fielding constant phone calls urging him to sign whilst reading claims in local media about how important he is going to be to Liverpool.
“Ten times per day they are calling him by phone, urging him to sign a contract,” Goran says.
“There are stories in Serbian media, like ‘Gerrard’s No.8 is waiting for him,’ or ‘Klopp called him by phone,’ and ‘millions here, millions there’.
He could switch off his phone and avoid reading the papers, but the club are relentless according to Goran: “There’s also pressure in Red Star’s dressing room, as it seems that they convinced players, who are waiting for their salaries, that their payments depend on Marko’s transfer.”
In Goran’s eyes the idea his son is being lined up to take Steven Gerrard’s shirt doesn’t marry up too well with the fact he wouldn’t actually be arriving at Anfield for another six months.
“I mean, which club is willing to pay six million euros, and then to say: ‘Look, kid, come when you want?’
“Nope. If Liverpool FC is seriously counting on him, they’ll tell him: ‘Start of training camp in January is on this day, at that hour, we’re expecting you.’ And, what kind of combination is that?
“The club is paying seven million euros for him, but then leave him on loan and that loan costs one million?
“Really, I’m starting to think I should call the police to tell them everything about this pressure.”
Marko’s dad believes he still holds the trump card when it comes to blocking the deal: “All I can say is that the passports are with me, and I can guarantee that Marko is not leaving, he’s not going anywhere.”
There’s also a question for Grujic Senior about the rush to get the deal done. He believes if the club hold on to the summer they will get perhaps double the fee for him.
“He became world champion, he’s on his way to win a title with Red Star, it’s logical that his price will be bigger in summer 2016, but there are so many people who want this transfer to go earlier to get money.
“All of this is packaged as a beautiful strawberries and cream for Marko because he was still a child. But the reality is different.”
It seems Grujic’s anger is aimed square at the club’s hierarchy and not the manager: “I know that coach Miodrag Bozovic has respect for my son, but I told director Zvezdan Terzic openly: ‘Leave my kid alone!’
“As for Liverpool’s offer, I’m sure there will be bigger [offers] than this one. Let him win the title with Red Star first.”
Meanwhile Red Star Belgrade have officially confirmed their acceptance of Liverpool’s offer and have gone as far as explaining the reasons behind their willingness to do business. As Grujic suspects – and of course unsurprisingly – the deal has been done for financial reasons from Red Star’s point of view.
The Serbian side’s statement explained: “In the last 10 days we have received three formal offers for the transfer of our player Marko Grujic.
“From Anderlecht £1.45m, Stuttgart £3.6m and from Liverpool we received an offer worth £5m and 10 per cent of the next transfer.
“All at Red Star sincerely want Marko Grujic to stay for the next 10 years, but the financial situation of our club dictates the adoption of a different decision.
“The board considered the offer and unanimously accepted the offer of the English giants.
“Liverpool will pay the money immediately and the player will stay at Red Star until July.”
The club’s statement acknowledged the concerns of Marko’s dad and suggests that the six month return loan deal was done with that in mind.
“We wanted to respect the desire of the player’s father,” they said. “Marko Grujic will remain at our club until next summer. We agreed to pay Liverpool £730,000 for this six month loan.”
As for claims they are ‘destroying’ a young career, Red Star claim that the move to “giants” Liverpool will give the teenager an opportunity for a successful career.
“Marko Grujic should continue to develop at one of the biggest clubs in the world, the club that is probably the dream of every player on the planet.
“We are convinced, just like the people from Liverpool, that Marko Grujic has the quality to play at a big club and make a great career in England.”
How much they truly believe that is of course open to speculation and Red Star admit that they were in no position to wait any longer for the fee in any case.
“The most important fact,” their statement said: “Red Star needs £4.4m now more than £11.7m next summer, due to financial problems.”
In the meantime Liverpool fans are waiting to hear if any deals will be done to bring players into Jürgen Klopp’s squad immediately. An already thin squad has been hit by injuries recently and the manager’s options to address the slide of the past few games are limited.
Mamadou Sakho made his return from injury on Sunday but was clearly some way short of being ready. His return was enforced, however, due to the lengthy injury Dejan Lovren picked up the week before. Their fellow centre-back Martin Skrtel was himself injured during the game, the hamstring and tendon problem likely to see him miss six weeks of action.
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was also missing on Sunday due to injury and the Reds have further long-term injury absentees at the back in the shape of Joe Gomez and John Flanagan.
Further up the field vice-captain James Milner missed out on Sunday due to a calf strain, with striker Danny Ings out for the season and no sign of Daniel Sturridge coming back from his latest injury.
Aside from the injuries are the questions about quality, with former players amongst those calling for reinforcements to be brought in next month.