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Liverpool should aim to replicate Champions League loan strategy

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It took Marko Grujic a while to find his feet at Porto following his loan move last October. In the first half of the season, he was mostly restricted to brief substitute cameos and a small handful of starts, which wasn’t exactly the plan.

After two productive loan spells at Hertha Berlin in 2018/19 and 2019/20, he came close to joining Werder Bremen last summer only for the deal to fall through over a disagreement around the fee. Following a couple of League Cup appearances for Liverpool in the early weeks of the 2020/21 season, the loan move to Porto made sense on the face of it, but with opportunities proving difficult to come by initially, it looked as though Grujic’s promising development was in danger of stalling.



Over the last couple of months of the campaign, however, Grujic began playing more regularly, including starting both legs of Porto’s narrow Champions League quarter-final defeat to Chelsea, and it has emerged in recent days that Porto were sufficiently impressed with his performances that they are one of a number of clubs keen to sign him on a permanent deal this summer.



The Liverpool Echo reported earlier in the week that Liverpool value him at around £20m, while The Athletic have indicated that they would settle for a fee closer to £15m, adding that several Bundesliga and Serie A clubs are also interested as well as Porto. Now 25 years of age and no closer to forcing his way into Jürgen Klopp’s midfield, it’s very much in both Liverpool and Grujic’s best interests that he finds a permanent home this summer, and the indications thus far would suggest that finally, he will.



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Having Champions League football on his CV appears to have significantly boosted his prospects and raised his profile in a European football context, which means he might generate a higher fee than any other player Liverpool end up selling this summer – possibly three or four times what Liverpool paid to sign him from Red Star Belgrade in January 2016.

Loaning players out to certain Champions League clubs is therefore arguably a trick Liverpool should have exploited more in recent years, and should aim to do more frequently in the future, as it’s great for the player’s development to gain experience in Europe’s elite competition (so long as they play), meaning they’ll either return to Liverpool ready to contribute as part of the squad, or, if not, they’ll be moved on for a substantially higher fee than they might otherwise have been worth.

Liverpool’s well-established relationship with Red Bull Salzburg could potentially be fruitful in this regard as an alternative to sending youngsters out to the lower English leagues to gain experience, or indeed any number of clubs from the Portuguese, Belgian, Dutch or Scandinavian leagues who qualify for the Champions League.

Such loans would have to be carefully considered, of course, to ensure that there’s a definite opportunity for regular game time, but if the circumstances are right for all parties, then it’s a strategy which could greatly benefit Liverpool in years to come.

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