Admit it. There have been times when you’ve thought you were a better footballer than Marouane Fellaini.
Not in a half-hearted ‘my grandma could have done better’ sense. Genuinely believing that you possess more talent on a football pitch than a man with 87 caps for Belgium and five domestic and European honours.
It’s fine. The same thought has entered my head, despite my footballing career never topping the giddy heights of getting lost at Hackney Marshes every Sunday morning.
Fellaini is Keyser Soze in a pair of football boots. The greatest trick he ever pulled was convincing armchair football fans that his talent didn’t exist. It’s what made him the most triggering footballer in Premier League history.
Joey Barton, Robbie Savage, El Hadji Diouf, Diego Costa et al had their merits, but nothing boiled football fans’ piss like the sight of Fellaini awkwardly galloping around in midfield, looking like he could grind to a rusty halt at any given moment.
Of course, Fellaini’s ability to wind people up owed plenty to the sharpness of his elbows. He possessed two body parts that were simultaneously world class and Sunday League.
His ability to pluck the ball out of the sky on his chest was reminiscent of those velcro dart boards you used to play with as a kid when you couldn’t be trusted with sharp objects. It truly was a sight to behold.
Yet, at the same time, Fellaini was fighting the primal urge, usually reserved for the darkest parts of Sunday League football, to crash an elbow into the face of an unsuspecting opponent. It was often a losing battle.
For all his perceived aggression, Fellaini only received three red cards in 260 Premier League appearances for United and Everton. The additional 55 yellow cards point towards a player that was a pest rather than a brute.
Fellaini was more than a walking three-match ban. He wouldn’t have survived three permanent managers at Old Trafford- David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho- if he couldn’t be trusted both tactically and technically.
Let’s not forget that Fellaini once gained the plaudits of Messrs Shearer, Lineker and Hansen for sending Craig Bellamy back to the karaoke bar, golf club in hand, with a ‘Zidane turn’ while at Everton.
Has there ever been a less-Zidanesque player to pull off the Frenchman’s trademark pirouette? Answers on a postcard.
In the end, it was Fellaini’s capacity to come through clutch, plus his ability to play multiple roles within a formation, that made him such a valuable asset.
If towering back post headers between minutes 80 and 90+ counted as goals then Fellaini would be Europe’s most heralded marksman. As it was, they earned him a notorious reputation as a Get Out of Jail Free Card.
He’s probably broken your heart at some point by contributing to a scrappy last minute snatch and grab despite seemingly being unable to trap the ball for the entire game.
For his final trigger, Fellaini is moving to Chinese Super League club Shandong Luneng to earn absolute sheets. Eighteen million sheets a year if reports are to be believed.
Any transfer fee will add to the £42.5million that’s already been spent on his services. Not bad for a giraffe on roller blades.
It’s a fitting way for the first signing of the post Sir Alex Ferguson era to bow out of English football.
Thanks for the memories, Marouane. You’ll leave an angry hole to fill in the hearts of Premier League fans up and down the country.
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