Red Star Belgrade have pledged to protect Xherdan Shaqiri from “unwanted situations” when the Liverpool winger arrives for their Champions League group match in November.
However, general director Zvezdan Terzic believes the Switzerland international, born in the former Yugoslavia to Kosovan-Albanian parents, will be under “unbelievable psychological pressure” because of his background.
Shaqiri courted controversy during the World Cup when he celebrated a last-minute winner against Serbia with an ‘Albanian Eagle’ gesture.
He and Swiss team-mates Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner were all fined for unsporting behaviour for making the gesture, which symbolises the Albanian flag.
“Personally, I can’t imagine that an Albanian will play for Red Star,” Terzic told Belgrade newspaper Kurir.
“I think that Shaqiri will be under unbelievable psychological pressure because he will know where he is coming; he knows that the Red Star is a symbol of Serbia and playing the Marakana, I don’t know whether he will play.
“Of course, as a soccer club, we treat our rivals equally, and we do not have to deal with the past and the history.
“Red Star must do everything to make Shaqiri feel that he came to play football and it is our duty to protect him in the case of unwanted situations. Let’s be good hosts.”
Shaqiri was born in the former Yugoslav city of Gjilan, now part of Kosovo, where a Serbian crackdown on the Albanian population ended with Nato military intervention in 1999.
Kosovo, with a mainly Albanian population, declared independence in 2008 but Serbia refuses to recognise it as a state and it has led to tense relations between the two countries.
Liverpool misfit Lazar Markovic has rejected suggestions his last-minute deadline day move to Anderlecht fell through because of money.
The Serbia international, who has not played for the Reds since May 2015, travelled to Belgium after a cut-price £2.9million fee was agreed for him to return the club at which he spent the second half of last season on loan.
However, despite a three-year contract being offered, the move collapsed and led to Anderlecht’s manager Hein Vanhaezebrouck claiming it was the player’s fault.
“Our president and sports director did everything to convince Markovic,” he told Belgian media.
“They waited until Liverpool lowered the price. They almost did a crazy effort for the player, but it wasn’t enough. It’s his own fault that the deal fell through.”
But 24-year-old Markovic, who has also had unremarkable loan spells at Fenerbahce, Sporting Lisbon, Hull and is out of contract next summer, hit back.
“Thank you for making such a great effort for trying to get me back in the club. However, money was not the issue !!!!! Good luck in the future @rscanderlecht,” he wrote on Twitter.
Markovic has once again not been included in Liverpool’s Premier League squad and has no chance of playing under manager Jurgen Klopp so faces another four months in the wilderness, with even playing for the under-23s unlikely, until the window reopens in January.
The Reds boss praised his “General” and is convinced the 28-year-old can still get even better over the course of what, Press Association Sport understands, is a five-year contract.
“It is fantastic news but should not be a surprise to anyone – he is perfect for us and we for him, I think,” Klopp told liverpoolfc.com.
“Jordan embodies entirely what it means to be a Liverpool player in this modern era of football.
“You can tell through his actions on and off the pitch he treats representing our badge and our shirt as a privilege.
Jordan Henderson: "There is no other place in the world I would rather play football. I want to be here for as long as I can be. I’m so privileged to have been a part of this club for so long, and hopefully even longer now."#LFC https://t.co/bz06XCDB3R— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) September 3, 2018
“He takes nothing for granted and strives to learn and be better for his team at all times.
“He carries a lot on his shoulders that people on the outside won’t see, but he embraces that responsibility and that leadership. He is our ‘General’ and I trust him completely.”
Henderson made his first start of the season in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Leicester which ensured Liverpool’s best opening to a campaign since 1990-91.
He had previously been restricted to three substitute appearances but that was no reflection of his standing within the team – and more to do with easing him back after his extended involvement in England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals.
“The best thing is, I think – in fact, I know – he will get even better in these coming years. And this improvement will come from a very high base already,” added Klopp.
“Jordan is so important to us and we are very fortunate as a club to have this person commit to us as he has.
“For Jordan and his wonderful young family, I am really pleased they now know they are part of our Liverpool family for an even longer time.”
Jürgen Klopp on Jordan Henderson: "Jordan embodies entirely what it means to be an #LFC player... He carries a lot on his shoulders that people on the outside won’t see, but he embraces that responsibility and that leadership. He is our ‘General’ and I trust him completely" pic.twitter.com/w3YVJGDOt1— The Anfield Buzz (@TheAnfieldBuzz) September 3, 2018
Henderson moved to Anfield in the summer of 2011, assuming the role of captain from Steven Gerrard in 2015, and has made 283 appearances.
“It doesn’t seem like too long ago when I signed my first one – it feels like yesterday, really – but a lot has happened since then,” Henderson said.
“I feel it’s been a progressive journey for me throughout my time here and one I’ve enjoyed so much.
“There is no other place in the world I would rather play football. I want to be here for as long as I can be.
“I’m so privileged to have been a part of this club for so long, and hopefully even longer now.”