Jurgen Klopp has made his first signing as Liverpool manager after concluding a deal for Serbian teenager Marko Grujic.
The 19-year-old midfielder, who will cost £5.1million, has signed a four-year contract but will return to former club Red Star Belgrade on loan for the remainder of the season and will rejoin the Reds in July.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 6, 2016
Liverpool fought off interest from Russian clubs CSKA Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg, who were offering over £7m, following personal intervention from Klopp after being advised about the under-21 international by his Serbian assistant Zeljko Buvac.
"I'm very excited and so proud to be here and a member of Liverpool Football Club. I can't wait to get started, play at Anfield and train at Melwood,'' Grujic told liverpoolfc.com.
“I was thinking about my progress in my next period and decided it was good for me to come here and try to be the best I can.
“I want to play in front of one of the loudest set of fans in Europe at Anfield.
“I also like the atmospheres at other stadiums, the crowds are very good. I like to play under pressure and that’s why I’ve come here – because it brings out the best in me.”
Klopp was alerted to Grujic’s potential soon after arriving as Brendan Rodgers’ replacement in October and now the deal has been wrapped up.
We’re very pleased because Marko is a big talent and we’ve seen him a lot of times,“ said the German.
“When I came here, our scouts showed me some footage of a very skilled player from Red Star Belgrade.
“We watched it, we spoke to him, we met each other – he’s a good boy, a young boy but plays an important role at the moment at Red Star, who are the best team in Serbia.
“To describe him, I would say he’s a tall boy, but quick and good at technical things. He can play passes and can dribble.
“But he is young, so he has to develop. He will do this, so everything is okay.”
While the arrival of Grujic marks the start of Klopp’s restructuring of the squad he inherited from Brendan Rodgers the German has more pressing concerns which need to be addressed in the January window.
Injuries to centre-backs Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho and Joe Gomez mean he is looking for cover with a busy month ahead.
Liverpool do have one other centre-back in Tiago Ilori who is on loan at Aston Villa but he has yet to make an appearance for the Midlanders – or indeed his parent club having arrived from Sporting Lisbon in September 2013.
An agreement would have to be made with Villa to cancel the loan as there was no recall clause written into the original deal.
Liverpool are tracking Schalke defender Joel Matip, who is out of contract at the end of the season, but there remains plenty of work to be done to sign the German-born Cameroon international.
At least two French clubs appear to be ahead of Liverpool in the running for the 24-year-old while Schalke have not given up hope the centre-back will sign a new contract.
Liverpool’s initial intention was to hopefully sign Matip in the summer but their current crisis may mean they have to bring forward that plan.