Behind the hype and flash of Marco Fabián’s arrival in Philadelphia, there’s a guy who just wants to enjoy playing soccer. It’s been a while since he’s been able to.
Fabián knows he is perceived as still being hindered by the major back injury that sidelined him for much of 2017, and could have ended his career. But the 29-year-old Mexican midfielder says that is behind him.
He says he has been healthy for a year now — save for a short absence due to a knee injury last September — and he’s ready to prove what he’s got. He was on the bench in his final months at Eintracht Frankfurt for other reasons than his health.
“When everybody sees me on the pitch, everybody [will] see I am good,” he told the Inquirer and Daily News. “I know in the last months I don’t have a lot of chances in my team, but this is not from my injury. … That is in the past, and I forget everything — I just have good things in my mind. … I’m just waiting for a [new] start, to show my best in Philadelphia.”
This is not just a player's own opinion of himself. Union sporting director Ernst Tanner did plenty of homework during the team's three weeks of negotiations with Eintracht.
"It's not that difficult for me to find out what really happened and in which condition he is. It's just a few calls to people I know very well and are around him, and they gave me the right information," Tanner said. "We also got a confirmation out of Frankfurt from the physiotherapist there about his training record. … He is fit, he can play, he can start with us in the second phase of preseason."
As for integrating off the field, that started before the deal was done. Union technical director Chris Albright flew to Frankfurt to give the negotiations a personal touch, and Fabián said that made a difference.
“You never know when you have time for a change — a team, your life, everything,” he said. “The most important [thing] is when you feel good, and when you feel appreciated by all the people. Ernst, Chris, everybody, they made me confident. … I think this is the most important thing for saying I want to come here and help this team.”
It likely also helped that Fabián and Union captain Alejandro Bedoya have the same agent. The two players haven’t met on the field yet; they’ve managed to just miss each other a few times in the U.S.' perennial showdowns with Mexico. But they certainly know of each other.
"I know he's a great player," Fabián said. "I think we can understand [each other] really good on the pitch."
The agent, Lyle Yorks (who represents many top Americans worldwide), said Bedoya called him as soon as he heard the news, “and he was really happy.”
In Philadelphia, the two players will likely share not just the field, but the burden of leadership. Fabián knows what that means, having been in a big spotlight at Frankfurt and Mexican powerhouse Chivas.
"I know this responsibility — I want to show it and I want to give my best," he said. 'I want to give happiness to the fans. I need to take more fans close to the team. I know you have a lot of sports here. I want soccer [to be] also the same level with all the sports."
And for himself, Fabián wants to get back to playing the game he loves: fun, creative soccer. He wears the No. 10, soccer’s most famous jersey, the one fans always look to for special moments.