In the list of great Liverpool transfer flops, there can only be one winner.
Since May 2015, Lazar Markovic has played 20 games for Fenerbahce, 14 for both Sporting CP and Hull, and eight for Anderlecht.
And for Liverpool? Not one.
He’s still contracted to the Reds, of course. He still reports for training every day, and his profile is still listed under ‘first team’ on the club’s official website.
‘Lazar Markovic ended the 2016-17 season on loan at Hull City,’ it begins. Not much else to add really, is there?
On Sunday, Reds fans were able to grab a rare glimpse of the Serb in action. He played 90 minutes as an over-age player for Liverpool’s under-23 side, having little impact as Neil Critchley’s men drew 1-1 with West Brom in the Premier League Cup at Kirkby.
Jurgen Klopp’s first-team squad, meanwhile, were in Dubai, resting and relaxing, recovering and preparing. Markovic doesn’t see much of the seniors these days; since August, he’s been training at the club’s Academy.
This isn’t where his career was supposed to be. At 24, Markovic should be making waves, delivering on the potential which once persuaded Liverpool to spend almost £20 million (€23m/$26m) on him.
“An exciting signing,” was Brendan Rodgers’ verdict after a deal to bring him to Anfield from Benfica was completed in the summer of 2014. “He is the sort of character who is hungry to get better and progress.”
Sadly, there has been little excitement and little sign of progress since. Markovic played 34 times for Rodgers during the 2014-15 campaign. He scored three times, but rarely looked comfortable. Playing as a wing-back in Rodgers’ 3-4-3 system probably didn’t help, to be fair.
“I didn’t have a good relationship with [Rodgers],” he would later say. “I played in many positions but not in mine.”
His last Liverpool appearance came in May 2015, a six-minute cameo against QPR. His last start was at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa. He was substituted at half-time. Fitting, you might say.
Now, he’s doing little more than playing out time at Anfield. His contract expires in June and will not be renewed. Liverpool have been telling Markovic he needs to leave the club for three years.
He could have gone last summer. Liverpool had interest from Swansea and from PAOK, but had agreed a £2.9m ($3.8m) permanent deal with Anderlecht as the European transfer deadline approached.
A 50 per cent sell-on clause was negotiated, while the Belgians, Goal understands, were prepared to match Markovic’s Liverpool wages (around £50,000 a week) on a three-year contract.
A private plane was chartered to take him to Brussels, only for the deal to fall through at the last minute.
Anderlecht claimed the problem was financial, though Markovic later stated via his personal Twitter account that “money was not the issue.” Goal has since been told that Markovic was uncertain about working under coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck, who has since been sacked by the Jupiler Pro League side.
Either way, he and Liverpool were stuck with each other.
There have been no complaints from Academy staff in relation to the player’s attitude towards training and matches. Markovic is a quiet character whose presence was never likely to be disruptive around young players.
“I've got to say he's been brilliant to work with,” under-23s coach Critchley said back in October.
“We've enjoyed having him around and he's been great with the young lads. He's humble, he listens to what's asked of him and he's been professional.”
Still, there has been no suggestion whatsoever that he may make a return to the first-team fold. He’s Lazar, not Lazarus.
The one time he featured in a competitive squad under Klopp was last season at Leicester in the Carabao Cup. Liverpool lost 2-0, yet he remained unused.
Klopp, in fact, used only two of his three substitutes that night, despite his team’s struggles, turning instead to Danny Ings and the teenager Ben Woodburn. Markovic, bar a couple of brief cameos during pre-season, has not been seen since.
There is a possibility, Goal understands, that he could leave before the end of January. Liverpool, somehow, are still able to find interested parties, and have held discussions with at least one Mexican top-flight club about a potential move. There have also been rumblings of interest from the Chinese Super League.
If a transfer fails to materialise, Markovic will simply see out the rest of his contract and depart on a free in the summer. No fanfare, no emotional farewells, no supporters mourning his exit. Most probably won’t even notice.
It really wasn’t supposed to be this way.