THE MARQUEE SIGNING is a special thing for every club or franchise. It's the biggest occasion of pre-season other than the kit launch and a good opportunity to show off some financial muscle to impress the fans and the media. Strategically, it is the day when a player is signed around whom the whole squad can operate. That's why it's no wonder that Kerala Blasters chose a special day to announce their special signing.
The hordes of Kerala Blasters fans who have spent the whole summer anxiously waiting for their beloved ISL franchise to do their bit in the international transfer market got their money's worth when ex Spanish international Carlos Manchera was announced as their marquee signing, on the auspicious day of Onam, a festival celebrated across the state of Kerala.
Marchena is renowned across the world as a creative, versatile player who can play both as a centre back and a defensive medio. Hs club and international career has seen him take part in the highest competitions the sport has to offer, and come out victorious; including the FIFA World Cup.
Born in the Seville province of Spain, Marchena spent his youth years at Sevilla, getting a senior debut in the club's first team in 1997, at the age of 18. After a couple of years being used sparingly as well as a spell at Sevilla B, he became a regular starter in 1999-2000, after Sevilla got promoted to La Liga from Segunda Division. He made 33 league appearances that season, and even though Sevilla ended up relegated right back to Segunda Division, his performance garnered interest from Portuguese giants Benfica.
Marchena signed for Benfica in 2000. There he immediately established himself in the first team, making 20 quick league appearances and scoring 2 crucial goals. But payments from the Lisbon club proved to be less than regular and the disputes led to Marchena leaving the club before the year was over. He came back to Spain and joined Valencia on a 4 year deal.
It was hear that Marchena made himself known as the world class player he was. On the first season at Valencia, he made a total of 21 appearances including La Liga and Europe, and earned the first major silverware in his senior career, the La Liga. He got his national team debut too, right after the 2002 World Cup concluded. Soon afterwards he tasted success again as he helped Valencia lift the La Liga 2003-04, UEFA Cup 2003-04, followed by the UEFA Super Cup. In summer 2004 he was part of the Spain squad in the UEFA Euro. Marchena got his World Cup debut in Germany, 2006.
After a few dry years his trophy luck returned in 2007-08. With him as their defensive rock, Valencia went on to win the La Liga once again. Then the summer of 2008 saw the beginning of the rise of Spain in world football, starting with their European Championship victory in 2008, a third place finish at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009, then culminating with the FIFA World Cup triumph in 2010.
Marchena spent 10 long seasons at Valencia, playing a total of 319 matches across all competitions for them, scoring 11 goals. He left them in 2010 for Villareal. Months later, in 2011, he played his last match for Spain, bringing his international career to a close after earning 69 caps, and scoring twice.
After leaving Valencia Marchena would go on to play 2 seasons each at Villareal and Deportivo. His last season in professional football was 2013-14, at Deportivo in the Segunda Division.
So here we have another marquee player who has undoubtedly been at the very top of the game in his day but has fallen out of top tier competititve football as naturally as it happens. Although his skills cannot have left him, at 36, his stamina has decidedly diminished and he has not played professional football for more than a year. Basically he ticks all the boxes for a typical ISL marquee signing.
But there is no denying that star names are necessary to sell tickets and attract sponsors, and there is the added value of having local players learn from said player. The inclusion of Marchena means Kerala Blasters now have 4 foreigners in their defence, which indicates they saved their best announcement for the last. And even if Marchena's match fitness comes into questions after a few weeks of intense travelling and playing, Marcus Williams and Bruno Perone are more than capable of filling in for him.
So everything looks settled for Kerala Blasters. They are going to begin their pre-season in Kochi on the first week in September, the only ISL franchise to actually do their full preparations in Indian conditions. And once the tourament kicks off in October, they will launch a campaign from which their fans expect nothing less than an improvement on their 2014 season; that is to say, an ISL triumph. How crucial a role Carlos Marchena will be playing in that title push, only time will tell.