Marouane — The Mane Target — Player Story
On the beautiful Maghreb coast, at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Atlantic Ocean touches the Mediterranean sea, is the spectacular Moroccan city of Tangier. Also, called the bride of the North or the door of Africa.
Here in Tangier, in 1304, was born one of the greatest traveling scholars of the medieval world, Muhammad Ibn Battuta — who made a miraculous journey through most of the world back then — North Africa, West Africa, Middle East/West Asia, India, Central Asia, South East Asia, all the way upto China.
He published his travelogue by the name of “Tuhfat an-Nuzzar fi Gharaib al-Amsar wa Ajaib al-Asfar” / “A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling.”
Roughly 650 years later, in 1948, right here in Tangier, was born Abdellatif. His love for football reached fruition when he made a trip down the west coast to sign a professional contract as a goalkeeper with Morocco’s footballing crown jewel — Raja Casablanca.
Later, he moved to Hassania Agadir. And then in 1972, he signed for Belgian club Racing Mechelen. However his former Moroccan club refused to send paperwork. Dejected but not defeated, Abdellatif relocated to Belgium and started working as a bus driver for STIB.
Flash forward 15 years to 22 November 1987, Abdellatif and his wife, residents of Etterbeek in the Belgian capital city of Brussels, were blessed with identical twins — Mansour Fellaini-Bakkioui and Marouane Fellaini-Bakkioui.
In 2015, then Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho received a tip-off from a hotel doorman regarding the upcoming fixture between Manchester United and Chelsea.
“Fellaini is not playing, I saw him here” — he said, to Mourinho.
“That doesn’t make sense — who can they play in his place?” — thought, Mourinho.
Mourinho smelling something fishy, googled Mansour Fellaini. He smirked, and showed the image to the doorman, “Is this the guy you saw?” “Yes!”, replied the eager doorman. “Fuck off, he is the brother”, concluded Mourinho.
Marouane Fellaini — world renowned for the largest Afro in European Football — was initially destined to become the largest Afro in track and field. His love for long distance running, especially 10,000 metres led him to regularly choose running to the school and back, when his friends took the car/bus.
It was only upon his father Abdellatif’s insistence, that Marouane joined Belgian Club Anderlecht’s youth academy. He scored 26 goals in his first season and 37 goals in his second. Then he turned 10 years old.
At the age of 17, Marouane signed his first professional contract with Belgian club Standard Liege. Standing tall at 6’4”, his strong aerial ability and attacking prowess, made him one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the Belgian Pro League, leading him to win the prestigious Ebony Shoe award in 2008.
Every year, the best African/African-origin footballer in the Belgian Pro League is awarded the Ebony Shoe award.
Vincent Kompany [Manchester City], Romelu Lukaku [Everton], Michy Batshuayi [Chelsea] are some of the other notable recipients of the award.
David Moyes, then manager of Everton, broke both the club transfer record and the Belgian transfer record to bring Marouane Fellaini to Goodison Park in 2013 for $20 million.
Fellaini quickly became the fan-favourite, in equal parts for his exquisite afro and for his attacking qualities in the box and on the long balls — earning him the nickname — “Everton’s mane target” in the process.
In 2013, when the greatest manager in the history of English football, Alex Ferguson moved onto retirement, United handed a 6-year contract to David Moyes of Everton. His record transfer that summer was again Marouane Fellaini — after bids for world stars like Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos, Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas fell through.
The undue pressure of being the record transfer under a manager who himself was struggling to replace the greatest manager in the country seemed to impact Fellaini immensely as he and Moyes had a forgettable season. David Moyes was fired just after 10 months into a 6 year contract. Fellaini, however endured and the next 2 years saw Fellaini play under 2 very different managers — Louis van Gaal and currently Jose Mourinho.
We pulled Fellaini’s stats out for the last 4 years — 3 at United 1 at Everton- to compare what went wrong and what went right.
While Fellaini improved many parts of his game considerably and turned in committed and energetic impact in the last three years, there are still questions over his temperament, flailing elbows and fits of rage.
Will he stay till next year at Manchester United? Let us know in the comments section.