Despite the old adage “father knows best,” there comes a time in every child’s life when they are old enough to make their own decisions. At that point, father’s wisdom and guidance becomes less a mandate from your boss and more a word of advice to be weighed as lightly or heavily as the budding adult sees fit. The father of 19-year-old Serbian starlet Marko Grujić is fighting this transition with tooth and nail.
The younger Grujić currently bosses the midfield for his boyhood club Red Star Belgrade, where, even at this tender age, he has become a key figure in the team. He scores, assists, defends, and runs and runs and runs. As of a week ago he’d racked up five goals and eight assists in 19 league appearances in his breakout season, which was jumpstarted by his leading role in the Serbian youth squad that won the U-20 World Cup this summer.
Naturally, bigger clubs in bigger leagues have spotted his talent. Just today, Liverpool had a £5.1 million offer for Grujić accepted by Red Star. All that leaves is the player and the club agreeing to a contract and it’s the culmination of a happy story of a young kid getting his dream move to the big leagues, right? Not so much, according to his dad, Goran. He had a different interpretation of the events, as he explained to Serbian paper Blic:
I will not let them ruin my child! The people who run the club have all turned their backs on him, they remain penniless and see a solution in selling Marko. That is why he is being pressured. They call him on the phone ten times a day to convince him to sign a contract. Selling tales about “[Steven] Gerrard’s number 8”, about [Liverpool manager Jürgen] Klopp, millions. There is also pressure on him in the locker room, because it seems some players are convinced that the payments of their debts depend solely on Marko’s sale.
Papa Grujić is making sense, here. As he lays out later in the interview, his real fear is that Red Star only want to cut bait now for the easy payout, and aren’t considering what’s in his son’s best interests. As promising of a prospect as Grujić may be, he wouldn’t have anything near as prominent a position on the field at Liverpool as he has now.
Goran doesn’t want Marko going down the path of so many other young Serbs who sign with big Premier League clubs, languish on the bench, get sent around the world on loan, and ultimately never realize their potential due to a lack of playing time during their most formative years:
You see that none of our young players survived there. Bojan Đorđić, Miloš Veljković, Adem Ljajić, Zoran Tošić, Lazar Marković, Danilo Pantić ... Do you need me to continue listing them? No one has the opportunity to prove himself there.
And though Marko is technically of age to make his own decisions, Goran doesn’t intend to sit on the sidelines while a combination of dollar signs and internal pressure from Red Star overwhelm his son’s senses and cause him to sign a bad deal. “His passport is with me and I claim that Marko isn’t going anywhere,” Goran told Blic. Well, one way to jam up an international transfer is making sure your son isn’t able to travel internationally.
We’ll have to wait and see how effective Goran’s strategy is. Red Star have already accepted the transfer, which includes a loan agreement that would keep him in Belgrade until next summer. Red Star’s statement about the sale supported Goran’s read of their motivations: “Everyone at Red Star would like for Marko Grujić to play here for the next ten years, but the financial situation of the club forced us to make a different decision.”
Marko himself still needs to sign the contract, though, and eventually would need the paperwork allowing him to physically make the move to England. From the sounds of it, Goran’s determined to make those final steps as difficult as possible.
Photo via Getty