Restless with anticipation, January’s transfer deadline day promised a cyclone of conjecture and speculation. A multitude of noteworthy names surfaced in the dying hours and tensions were soaring. A beguiling whirlwind of dubious ifs, buts and maybes.
Temperatures plummeted as the sun set, but operations were sizzling inside Motspur Park. Ideally, Claudio Ranieri’s faltering set-up needed reinforcements in every department, but some areas were distinctly more crucial than others.
Acquiring a centre-half was an imperative measure. Linked with a plethora of plausible enforcers, Fulham finally landed a defensive recruit with relative Premier League experience – Havard Nordtveit. Prised from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on loan until the end of the current campaign, the Whites had seemingly covered that particular base, that certainly needed to be addressed as soon as conceivably possible.
Now, another winger wasn’t necessarily on the shortlist, in fact, it wasn’t even a foreseen possibility, but our final roll of the dice boggled minds and wobbled heads. As Aboubakar Kamara joined Turkish Super Lig outfit Yeni Malatyaspor on a temporary basis, free agent Lazar Markovic penned a deal at Craven Cottage that, like Nordveit’s, will span until the 2018-19 season comes to a close.
With the squad at our disposal, survival’s still within reach but all involved will have to clamour unremittingly to retain our top-flight status. What of our deadline day duo, though? A minuscule segment of the club’s faithful are curious to what Nordtveit and Markovic are capable of and, in some instances, to whom they actually are.
We are languishing at the foot of the Premier League table with a very imposing run of games ahead, devoid of form, intent and various pundits, pessimists and armchair specialists have us hung, drawn and quartered already. But, regardless, we’re sure to see the two newcomers scale the turf in our famous jersey very soon, but until they’re wholly recognisable and familiar, here’s an extensive insight into their career path thus far, and what to expect from them in the coming weeks and months as we toil to salvage our safety and sanity.
Starting his journey in FK Haugesund’s youth system, Nordtveit, now 28, progressed to the Eliterserien club’s first-team in January 2007 and was swiftly purchased by Arsenal in the summer of 2007.
Spending 4 years in the Gunners’ reserve fold, the Norwegian was loaned out to a trio of suitors: UD Salamanca of the Spanish Segunda Division B, Lillestrom SK of his homeland and Bundesliga side 1.FC Nuremberg.
Nordtveit’s sturdy exploits at Nuremberg caught Borussia Monchengladbach’s attention, and as he was surplus to requirement at the Emirates, Die Fohlen snagged the aspiring defensive despot on a free transfer in January 2011.
During his 4-and-a-half year spell at Borussia-Park, Nordtveit made 187 appearances, netted 12 goals alongside 11 assists and accumulated 17 yellow cards with 2 reds. Nordtveit’s acknowledged as a holding midfielder by trade and the vast majority of his outings in Germany came in that particular capacity.
West Ham United lured back Nordtveit to English soils in 2016’s summer transfer window but his stint in east-London was terribly short lived. Making just 21 appearances for the Hammers in all competitions, his reputation as a trustworthy component took a substantial pummelling. Deployed as a deep lying midfielder, a right-back and a centre-half, Nordtveit ultimately couldn’t make a lasting impact on Slaven Bilic’s plans.
So, just a year after greeting the London Stadium, Hoffenheim offered Nordtveit a lifeline, and though he’s currently on loan at the Whites, he’s still a fairly dependable figure at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. Before jumping to Craven Cottage mid-season, Nordtveit competed in 8 Bundesliga encounters for Die Kraichgauer and also featured in 3 Champions League meetings, scoring 1 goal on the continent against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Internationally, Nordtveit has represented Norway from U16 level and made his senior debut for Løvene in 2011. The adaptable despot’s earned 45 caps and has netted 2 goals for his country within that period.
So, Nordtveit’s an individual of credible flexibility but the jury’s still out on his underlying ability. Replying to our very own Sammy James via Twitter, however, football writer Lars Sivertsen offered his conclusive opinion of his competence and tendencies:
Depends on where he plays. I'd argue that he played the best football of his career as a holding midfielder at Gladbach (alongside Granit Xhaka, actually). For me he's never fully convinced as a central defender, but would be interesting to see him on the right of a back 3.
— Lars Sivertsen (@larssivertsen) January 31, 2019
Lazar Markovic played alongside Aleksandar Mitrovic at Partizan Belgrade having graduated from the club’s U19 system in 2011. Claiming two SuperLiga titles in two full seasons at the Partizan Stadium, the searing winger was also placed in the Serbian first division’s Team of the Season for two consecutive years, signifying his superior pedigree.
An eye-catching attacker, SL Benfica captured Markovic in 2013 for £9m, a switch to the Estadio da Luz that was extremely profitable indeed. Laying his hands on the Liga NOS title, the Portuguese Cup and the Portuguese League Cup, Markovic became an esteemed treble-winner, one that registered 7 goals and 5 assists in 49 collective outings.
One rewarding, solitary season with the Águias warranted Liverpool’s undivided attention. In August 2014, the Reds shelled out £22m for the 20-year-old flanker and his burgeoning career escalated to a greater height. Although Markovic made 34 appearances in his maiden season at Anfield, notching 3 goals and 1 assist, the Serbian’s future on Merseyside was destined for a bleak twist.
In 2015, Fenerbahce SK gained Markovic’s signature on a season-long loan. A succession of temporary ventures then ensued after his return from Sarı Lacivertliler in 2016, initiating the beginning of his demise at his former employers.
Sporting CP, Hull City and RSC Anderlecht seized his services following his formative consignment at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium and his prestige has never quite returned to the encouraging extent that it originally was.
Vying to prove his worth in Liverpool’s Premier League 2 set-up this season, Markovic’s stretch under Jurgen Klopp’s regime would eventually cease in January 2019, and that’s what subsequently brought the discarded winger to SW6, where his services could soon become very beneficial to our dwindling cause.
Markovic, since his international debut in 2012, has notched 3 goals in 22 encounters for his country. Supporting Mitro’ in Orlovi’s offensive spearhead, our resident hit-man supposedly issued the Whites’ hierarchy a very positive reference of his compatriot’s qualities in wider ranges and in the final third.
Upon his arrival in SW6 after the recent transfer window slammed shut at 11pm on January 31st, Tony Khan proclaimed to the club’s official website:
“Lazar Marković is a gifted young player; we’re pleased to welcome him from Liverpool for the remainder of the season. Lazar is known as a great teammate, he has the support of our Manager, and he has the talent to strengthen our attack. Come on Fulham!”