Marco Fabian is eager to show he's still at his best after an injury-riddled stint with Eintracht Frankfurt, and he's wasting little time getting to know his new surroundings–both on the field and as an NBA fan.
It’s only been a week since Marco Fabian arrived in Philadelphia from Germany, but the 29-year-old midfielder wishes to make an important statement.
“I’d like to officially declare it. I am the Philadelphia 76ers’ No. 1 fan,” he told SI.com this week. “Anytime Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid or any player wants to come to see the Union, they’re more than welcome.”
Fabian, who joins the Philadelphia Union from Eintracht Frankfurt and became the club’s most ambitious signing, has been making the rounds since his official unveiling last Friday, and getting to meet the city’s NBA team has been one of the highlights.
“Something many people may not know is that I actually love basketball, I’m a huge NBA fan," Fabian said. "I’d watch the games on TV, but now to be able to see them live, I’m even more of a fan.”
Soon enough, Fabian hopes to have the people of Philadelphia proclaiming their fandom of him. The Mexican playmaker is enjoying his time in the city so far, and thanks to the warm reception, it’s been a stress-free transition.
“The welcome has been fantastic, they’ve made me feel at home," Fabian said. "The people, the team and the way they’ve received me has made me feel so good. I’m very thankful. These first few days have been great and on the pitch? Well, I feel great during training as I get to know the players and the team–I feel good and I am so, so happy. The happiest I have been in a long time. Now, I’m just anxious to get the season started.”
It’s clear to identify the optimism in Fabian’s voice. This move to MLS is also an opportunity for him to write a new chapter in his professional career. His time with Frankfurt, though rewarding, also came with adversity, as lower back problems seriously threatened his days as a player.
His 2017 was particularly difficult, as after playing through pain at the beginning of that year and through the Confederations Cup with Mexico, Fabian eventually had spinal disc surgery, which took him out of action until 2018. During that time, he reflected and worried about the rest of his playing days. It was the player’s toughest time of his career.
“I had people who helped me a lot during that time, but it was very difficult. But I consider myself to be very strong, not just physically but mentally,” Fabian said. “I’m very positive and always looking for the positive, and after working hard, I overcame that obstacle–I came back and did great things including a second World Cup (last summer in Russia)–and now I’m better than ever in every way. So it’s time to give back to the fans and do my best for everyone who has supported me.”
If this transfer seems to have come out of nowhere, it’s because the logistics between Fabian’s representatives and his decision to move to the U.S. were handled rapidly. His contract with Frankfurt was expiring at the end of this season, so he was listening to many offers other than from Philadelphia, including ones from Saudi Arabia, China, Mexico and other teams in Europe. A deal that would have sent him to Fenerbahce in January fell through, though he and Eintracht Frankfurt were adamant it had nothing to do with the health of his back.
The first meeting between the Union and Fabian’s representatives was less than a month ago, and his official decision to join the club was made last Tuesday, two days before he arrived in Philadelphia.
“Despite the speed of the process, I thought hard about what I wanted and it was about where I was going to feel the happiest and where I had to follow to my heart," Fabian said. "So from the first meetings I had with Union representatives back in Germany, I felt very good about the project, I felt closer to that than others. So I took the decision.”
The club reportedly did not pay a transfer fee, but it conceded a 5% sell-on clause to the German side. His one-year contract contains a club option to extend for two more. At the club's introductory press conference, sporting director Ernst Tanner said it was the largest contract in the club’s history.
“He’s a special player,” Tanner said. “He can score, he can assist, but he’s also a personality who is also helping our team in terms of motivation, being aggressive on the field, holding together and playing together at the end.”
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The expectations are high for Fabian and what he can offer the Union as he joins Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin in the midfield. He fills the void left behind by last season’s MLS assist leader (18) and club MVP Borek Dockal, whose loan deal expired. But Fabian, a dynamic, hard-working No. 10 who has played at two World Cups and won an Olympic gold medal, is ready for the challenge.
“Every team I’ve been with I dream of being a champion, and here, it’s no different," Fabian said. "I’m here and I want to help this team win the MLS Cup. These are the days where I learn the style of play and learn from my manager and my teammates, but I can already see the quality in the players, and the ambition, which is the most important.”
As the team plans for the new season, Union head coach Jim Curtin sees Fabian as somewhat of a Swiss Army knife who will be able to provide defensive and offensive support for a team that last year conceded more goals (50) than it scored (49).
“You’ve watched different roles he’s played for Frankfurt in one of the best leagues in the world, and he showed versatility, playing sometimes as a second striker, sometimes as a No. 8–you’ve seen him in that role and as a No. 10 for Mexico,” Curtin said. “So he’s a special talent, one that I think our strikers will love playing with. He has that ability to see things perhaps other players don’t, and it’s something we haven’t had.”
Philadelphia hosts Toronto FC on March 2 in the home opener at Talen Energy Stadium, so Union fans don’t have to wait too long to see their Mexican star on the field.
But there is no one more eager to get going than Fabian, who is ready to show his team and this league that he can still be at his best–and ready to have the fans of Philadelphia, or perhaps even 76ers themselves, racing to declare who is his No. 1 supporter.
“After all I’ve been through, a smile has returned to my face,” Fabian said. “When you choose a new club, you have to go where you feel comfortable, but most importantly–where you can find your happiness. And I think I found it here in Philadelphia.”