Marouane Fellaini: big hair, great talent
By Dan Wheeler
It seems Marouane Fellaini has always been destined to be a bit special. Right from the early days of his childhood in around Brussels it was apparent.
Ask any parent worth the furrows on their foreheads and they’ll tell you getting a little one out of bed and into school of a morning is such a trial sometimes you feel it is a jump suit and a cargo net away from something Gordon Burns might revel in describing.
However, it appears that Mr and Mrs Fellaini encountered precious little tears or tantrums with young Marouane who would run to classes rather than take a ride on the bus or in the back of his parents’ car.
Back then, long-distance running was what Fellaini lived for. But thanks to the steering of his father (a goalkeeper of some repute but whose own career never blossomed) it was the football pitch rather than the track that would ultimately profit from the boy’s athleticism. He was already in training.
Whether he would have ever become Belgium’s next Emiel Puttemans or Ivo Van Damme we will never know but the way he has settled into life in the Premier League he is rapidly threatening to boot into Row Z any doubt about his claims to be one of the most classy footballers his country has ever produced.
And we should all rejoice at that because whether you are a lover of Everton, of disco hair dos, or just a lover of anyone who plays the game silky, Fellaini is your man.
When he arrived for a fee almost as large as his barnet from Standard Leige in September 2008 no one was really sure what sort of impact he would make, other than on the city’s stock of hair conditioner.
Certainly Evertonians hoped he would turn out more Mikel Arteta than Per Kroldrup and despite a quiet first season, they have been cheered with the overwhelming evidence that they need not have worried after all. Far from it in fact.
The Premier League has become the richest stage around for foreign players to strut their stuff but so often the overall impression left on the punter has been vulnerable to dilution by sheer weight of numbers rather than quality of the stud strutted; for every Bergkamp, Zola, Ronaldo and Schmeichel (I know there are many others) there is a Shevchenko, Titi Camera, Chimbonda and Boogers (yes, scratching the surface there too).
Thankfully Fellaini is firmly marching his way into the former set and his performances so far this season suggests what was once a timid tiptoe towards the Premier League pantheon is starting to become much more of a gregarious sashay.
Under David Moyes’s canniness Fellaini has blossomed and is threatening to help propel the toffees back into top-four gate crashing mood - a feeling they’ve not had since 2004-05.
Certainly the early signs are encouraging. Chocked with industrious intelligence with a lethal, Croatian-made, tip, Everton have made their best start to a Premier League season since that campaign after gathering 13 points from their first five games. And Fellaini has been a large part of that.
He excelled in the first two games of the season, scoring in both matches as Manchester United and Aston Villa were seen off. Another came in the fabulous performance at Swansea. After five games Fellaini already had three goals and well on the way to his most prolific haul for the club.
Watching him recently against Southampton was a delight. Clever, evasive and dominant, Fellaini floated about the field on liquid limbs caressing and cajoling with precise economy as he went. I swear the ball smiled every time it reached his feet - the Yin to his Yang; the Reidy to his Sheedy.
However all good stories are given extra meaning by an undercurrent of uncertainty and Fellaini’s is no different. Despite his appeal, talent and absolute value to Everton there is some doubt whether he will be at the club next season.
Before a ball was kicked Fellaini said that this season could well be his last at Goodison and as recently as September hinted it may even reach its terminus as quickly as January. While it is the law that good things cannot last forever, a termination as early as the New Year would turn bluenoses’ shirts a distinct shade of indigo.
Fortunately Moyes and the board have seemingly said all the right things in all the right places with their brilliant Belgian now admitting he is happy to stay put likening playing for Everton to being part of “a family”.
And you cannot blame them for making Fellaini their special son either.
He is special. And with him in the team for the next few years, Everton can be, too.