Lazar Markovic is nobody's idea of a great Liverpool signing. Costing £20 million in July 2014, he is best remembered for a red card in a crucial Champions League tie with Basel. His offence that December night was to jab fingers into the face of Behrang Safari as Liverpool could only draw 1-1 and crashed out of the group stage.
Memories may have been jogged as Markovic joined Hull City on loan this week, having spent the last 18 months at Sporting Lisbon and Fenerbahce.
At last, the Serbia winger can be of use to his parent club since Hull play Manchester United in the Premier League next Wednesday. On Feb. 1st, after sitting out a home match with parent club Liverpool due to ineligibility, Hull travel to Arsenal. If Hull get a result in either or both of those fixtures, it could be of significant assistance to Liverpool's top-four hopes.
Markovic, though, will not be able to damage Chelsea's title challenge. Hull have lost twice already to the league leaders. There can be no revenge for the blow that Nathan Ake, loaned from Chelsea, inflicted when scoring Bournemouth's winner in Liverpool's 4-3 defeat on Dec 4th. Well, not unless Jon Flanagan, loaned to Burnley and a rare first-team choice for Sean Dyche, can make a surprise contribution when Burnley welcome Chelsea on Feb. 12th.
Each of the rest of this season's top-six contenders, bar one, has players on loan who might be able to provide indirect Premier League assistance to their parent club.
Ake's reward for scoring that goal, and impressing in his latter weeks at Bournemouth after waiting until November to crack the starting lineup, was a return to Stamford Bridge, where his versatility as a defensive midfielder, full-back or even part of Antonio Conte's preferred back three, may eventually be called into use.
He has yet to play a minute since returning to West London, which leaves only striker Loic Remy, on loan at Crystal Palace and only recently called into action, left to do damage to Chelsea's rivals. The rest of Chelsea's 36 loanees are either in the lower divisions or playing on foreign fields; the days from 2012-14 when Romelu Lukaku spent a season each at West Brom and Everton wreaking havoc lie in the past.
The summer transfer window's most surprising loan came when Jack Wilshere, craving game time to win back fitness, was allowed to join Bournemouth. Like Ake, he played a key role in Bournemouth's comeback from 3-1 to defeat Liverpool at the death. Beyond that, with Wilshere in the team, Bournemouth have halted Tottenham, when holding them to a 0-0 draw on Oct. 22nd. In the next few weeks, with both Manchester City and United coming up, Wilshere may be able to do Arsenal some more favours.
As might Calum Chambers, this season at Middlesbrough, who have each of Tottenham, United, City, Chelsea and Liverpool still to face before the season's conclusion.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino takes a rather different perspective on loanees than that of his contemporaries. The Argentine's view is that players are best being coached by him rather than someone else, such that being sent on loan represents ill tidings for any Tottenham squad member, which says little for the futures of Federico Fazio, at Roma, Nabil Bentaleb, at Schalke, or Clinton N'Jie, at Marseille.
Pochettino clearly sees little worth in playing the loan system for indirect benefits.
City have 16 players out on loan this season, but only two at Premier League clubs, and for differing reasons. Jason Denayer has been sent to gain experience at Sunderland, where he is learning the hard way among David Moyes' strugglers, and often fielded as an anchor midfielder rather than a central defender. So far, Denayer has been little use to City, since Sunderland have lost each game he has played against any of his parent club's rivals.
Meanwhile, striker Wilfried Bony, a £28m misfit at City, has not impressed at Stoke, scoring just twice in 10 appearances, though was part of a team that drew 1-1 with Manchester United on Oct. 2nd.
Jose Mourinho's attitude to loanees is not much diffident than that of Pochettino. Perhaps only Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, at Championship Wolves, and Andreas Pereira, in Spain with Granada, have a possible glimpse of a long-term Old Trafford future.
That now looks beyond once promising winger Adnan Januzaj, now at Sunderland with David Moyes, the manager who blooded him during the 2013-14 season and once compared the Belgian to Johan Cruyff. Januzaj has not scored a Premier League goal for Sunderland, and Moyes this week said: "We need more from him."
Mourinho might perhaps be thankful that Januzaj played in Sunderland's 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Jan. 2nd. Otherwise, the former boy wonder has made little difference to either club.