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Tale of the German Messi

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“Chelsea suit me better.” These were the words of a 23-year-old player who had just completed his move to the London club almost ten years back. Dubbed the ‘German Messi’, this player had all the attributes of the original Argentine Messi. However, the words he spoke after completing his move would prove completely wrong. Chelsea didn’t suit Marko Marin at all. It was such a catastrophic move for him that it destroyed any chance of fulfilling his high potential. 



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His footballing career after arriving at Chelsea looks more like that of an enthusiastic globetrotter hell-bent on exploring. Spain, Italy, Belgium, Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Saudi Arabia, and Hungary. These are the countries his footballing career has taken him to, and it is a journey that most footballers would want to avoid.

And when on March 26, he announced that he would retire at the end of the current season, it was a sad end for a player who was once touted as the German Messi.

So, how did a player whose emergence was one of the first signs of a German golden generation go from farm to obscurity?


Why “The German Messi”?

We have always seen a team being dubbed the ‘Golden Generation’ in football. This is a group of highly skilled football players who are expected to come together, reach their peak collectively and win trophies for every team they play for. 

For Germany, the emergence of Marko Marin was perhaps the earliest sign of a German golden generation.

Marin started his career at SG 01 Hoechst and moved to Eintracht Frankfurt before finally settling at Borussia Monchengladbach.


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And within a year, he found his way into the first team. 

His mental strength was one of his key areas, as is evident by one of his decisions at the club. At the end of the 2006-07 season, Monchengladbach had been relegated from the Bundesliga. And Marin could have easily joined another club, but he stayed.



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A return of four goals and 13 assists helped the team win the Bundesliga 2 and earn back immediate promotion to the top flight.

The following season became his breakout season, making him one of the top young players in the game. Again, Marko Marin was the chief architect for the team as he provided 13 assists, the fourth-highest in the league.


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This immediately earned him a move to Werder Bremen.

His three years at the club were relatively prosperous, and despite him missing the majority of the 2011-12 season, Chelsea came calling at the end of the season.

Elsewhere, he had also started to make a case for inclusion in the German national team. After missing out from the final-23 list for Euro 2008, Marin was on the plane to South Africa.



His performances at the World Cup were not something to boast about, and it was his compatriots, such as Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, and Sami Khedira, who became the new face of Die Mannschaft.

Still, Marin was a talented player and had finally had the experience of representing his country at the top level. 


A dream move turned into a nightmare

The 2011-12 EPL season may be remembered for one of the closest title races in the league’s history, which was decided in the dying seconds of the final matchday after Sergio Aguero scored that goal to give City their first EPL title.

However, what we might forget is that Chelsea finished a distant sixth. They did manage to win the Champions League, but it was apparent that there was a need for quality reinforcements, especially in the attack. 



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And in came Marko Marin, Kevin de Bruyne, Oscar and Eden Hazard. Perhaps this was the first bell of caution as too many quality players were fighting for the same position.

Chelsea’s season started on August 19, and by the end of the year, Marin had played for eight minutes, only eight minutes. He played for more than 15 minutes in only four matches which showed the lack of trust by the coaches in his ability.


The unwanted journey 

Marko Marin would not have thought much of his first season at Chelsea. Sure, he was struggling, but he still had the time to rediscover his mojo. He had previously shown his solid mental fortitude at Monchengladbach.

However, Chelsea were sure that they could cope without him for the next season. This decision would send him on a journey that will only finish at the end of the current season.

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A tryst in Sevilla 

His first stop was Sevilla, and it was perhaps a very suitable place for him to rebuild his career. He would get more opportunities, and the “German Messi” could again be back in business with a belter of a season (like he had in Monchengladbach). 

He had a better season than his previous season, with two goals and seven assists. Marin was also a regular feature in the Europa League, where Sevilla went on to win the title.

The fans at Sevilla were so impressed that they started a campaign to find a wife for him from the region in hopes that he might stay at the club beyond the season.

However, due to his limited output, there was still no place for him at Stamford Bridge. 


The Italian Job at Fiorentina

The following custom stamp on his passport was Italian as Chelseas sent him to Fiorentina. The Italian side had finished fourth the previous season and looked to bolster the squad’s quality to take them one step above. They hoped that Marin would help them in achieving their objective.

Unfortunately, the move turned out to be a total disaster. Marin suffered injuries and only represented the club in Europa League while playing zero minutes for the team in Seria A. 

The Italians were ready to cut the losses in mid-season as he returned to London.


A misadventure in Belgium 

After spending one and a half years in South Europe, Marin went back up north as he joined RSC Anderlecht. But his downfall went from bad to worse. At least, he had managed to score two goals in Italy, while in Anderlecht, his tally was zero.



The only main highlight from the movie was that he managed to play for 90 minutes against KSC Lokeren, a massive achievement considering his injury record.


A new low in Turkey 

Marko Marin was an integral part of the Chelsea loan army by then. And his next destination was the Black Sea Coast of Turkey as he arrived in Trabzonspor. This was perhaps the first time he went to a club that seriously lacked the pedigree to be a top tier club. 

In contrast to his previous seasons, Marin found stability on the injuries front as he made 24 appearances for the club. He also managed to score two goals and provide four assists.

He was the ultimate journeyman, a football player who went from one club to another, hoping for some minutes on the field.



Chelsea cut their losses and a Greek tragedy. 

By the time he returned from Turkey, Chelsea had managed to find a club ready to buy him. Yes, buy him, not loan him. It was the Greek club Olympiacos who brought the German Messi for €3 million.

By now, Marko Marin was 27, and his best hope would have been to get the consistent play to settle in a team.



The German scored four goals and provided four assists as Olympiacos won the league.

While he did not have a brilliant season individually, he was finally part of a team winning titles.

The following season Marin had a stuttering start before finally managing to gather some steam before the end of 2017. He scored against PAS Giannina, AE Laris, and PAS Lamia in three consecutive matches.

But, he was back to square one as he scored just two goals in the remaining part of the season.


A season to remember at Red Star Belgrade.

Even though his stock had declined, several clubs were still looking towards Marin. Then, after qualifying for the Champions League, Red Star Belgrade went in for the left-winger, and it was perhaps the first time since his move to Chelsea that Marin finally proved that a club was right to invest money in him. 

With seven goals and 13 assists, he had his most productive season since 2009-10. He also provided two assists for his team in the 2-2 draw against Liverpool. 



He ended the season in perfect style, winning the Serbian Player of the Season.

The following season, he scored three goals and six assists but in between the season switched his club again.


Arabian Knights 

After exploring the continent of Europe, Marin’s next stop was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After that, he joined Al-Ahli, who finished the season as champions.



Marin was influential for the club in the AFC Champions League, where he scored one goal and provided one assist.

The following season he was sent on loan to Al-Raed.


End of the road in Hungary 

The final stop for his career was the ‘Land of Magyars’ where he joined Ferencvarosi. On March 27 this year, Marin announced that he would retire at the end of this season. This came almost ten years after his move to Chelsea, the start of a decade that started with a dream move and ended with regret of the career that he could have had.


So, what next for Marko Marin?

Marko Marin may be ready to hang up his boots as a player, but he is not leaving football. Instead, the German will return to Red Star Belgrade, where he will serve as the head of scouting for the Siberian club.



While his footballing career may not have gone as planned, Marin has got a second chance, and he will move earth and heaven to ensure that he fulfils his potential in a new role.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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