The Marin Question

Timeline : 28th April 2012
One of those days for a Chelsea fan – being within days of the Champions League Final, having witnessed an epic turnaround after a below-par season, believing that nothing seemed impossible after that.
RDM had carried Chelsea to within touching distance of that one trophy which had eluded the London cabinet. Many fans had already started to believe that RDM had proved enough to deserve a permanent job. And then came a story; a certain German under-21 International had been snapped up on a 5 year deal.

At 23 years old, Marko Marin clearly portrayed Roman’s dream for a younger, fresher Chelsea. Marin then went on record to state that he would ‘obviously’ be rooting for Chelsea in the Champions League finals against Bayern. Oh, as a Chelsea fan, I loved that. It’s not ‘obvious’ for a German International to support a team who’s going to be playing against FC Bayern; mainly because every German footballer dreams of playing for FC Bayern some day in his professional career.
And there he was, Chelsea’s first of many signings to come, declaring his loyalty for his new club. Fans always adore such players, and they did.

Timeline : Summer transfer window
Chelsea had won the Champions League. Laurels were being sung about the remarkable performances of the squad. Excitement was peaking for the upcoming season. More so, about the signings to be made.
RDM had been handed the manager’s job on a permanent basis. Also handed over to him was the job of rebuilding an ‘ageing’ team. Juan Mata had had a fantastic season; Fernando Torres had shown a glimpse of his old self towards the end of the previous season. Things were going very well indeed.

Beautiful football was the agenda, and the signings were made keeping that in mind. First arrived Kevin De Bruyne, signed from Genk. Then captured was Eden Hazard, a player that half of Europe was after. After him, arrived Oscar, Brazilian wonderkid. He was followed by Victor Moses, a very talented winger. One thing, although, was common in these signings. All of them were young, sharp and attacking players.
Then came the million dollar question, how was RDM going to accommodate everyone?

Timeline : Post transfer window to current date.
I say he did a fairly decent job at rotating the squad. Moses, Hazard, Mata, Oscar, Lampard, Ramires, Mikel and Romeu; all vying for the 5 midfield slots in RDM’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Oh wait, I forgot Marin. Well, so did RDM.
Marin was overshadowed by his more illustrious compatriots. Hazard and Oscar cemented their place with impressive performances. Marin, on the other hand, was somewhat unfortunate to get injured at the start of the season.

With Juan Mata already having his place fixed, there seemed to be no place in the attacking slots for ‘The German Messi’, as he had been previously called. Squad rotation saw chances given to Moses and Sturridge, again leaving out Marin. A young talented individual like him constantly warming the bench isn’t too motivating, but he was patiently waiting, without any complaints. As a fan, my heart reached out to him, constantly sympathising with him.

RDM was sacked, Benitez took on the mantle. And in came new hope for Marin. A new manager brought in a fair chance for everyone to prove their worth. But his joy was short lived, as Benitez refused to experiment, often preferring Moses over Marin. Well, you can’t totally blame him too, because he was already battling angry fans. So again, Marin was demoted to the bench and had the occasional substitute appearance.

Come January, Mikel and Moses departed for the AFCON tournament in their native Africa, and that rotation slot in midfield opened up for Marin. But call this his bad luck; David Luiz had begun adjusting to life as a Central midfielder, thus promoting Lampard into the attacking midfield spot. Things were looking gloomy for him when suddenly hope shone in the form of Hazard’s three match ban for ‘kicking’ a ball-boy. Also, Sturridge was sold to Liverpool, making the attacking options limited for Benitez. And then against Brentford in the FA Cup, Marin eventually got his start. But, on THAT pitch against a hard working Brentford, he was substituted at half time with Chelsea trailing 1-0.

Rotating the squad was necessary and Marin got another substitute appearance against Wigan with Chelsea leading 3-1. He virtually scored with his first touch of the game, and the celebration said it all. This young footballer pointed to the crest on his jersey, and ran to celebrate with the fans!

This brings me to the recent game. Sparta Prague, away, Europa League. Playing in freezing conditions (Temperature during the game was -3 degrees Celsius), Chelsea needed to grind out a result. Looking at the team news, I smiled when I saw Marin’s name in the starting 11.

He produced an exciting display in a boring game, earning higher rating points than the usually efficient Juan Mata. Okay, in Mata’s defence, he looked tired and probably IS tired. But, take nothing away from this gem of a performance put in by Marin! In an otherwise dull game, he sparked up a few attacks and counter attacks purely with his running. At the end of the game, I felt a certain satisfaction of having seen Marin show glimpses of his brilliance. At least he got a chance to show what he is capable of. And that, for me, had been the biggest problem for this wonderful footballer – Lack of Opportunities. Over the months, I had seen a lot of fans ask this particular question, “what is wrong with Marko Marin?”

Well, absolutely nothing! It was plain bad luck that he had so far lived in the shadow of the reputations and performances of his more nuanced compatriots. And after yesterday’s game, I think he might have just stepped out of it!