Tony Popovic’s Victory rebuild was already well underway when the club announced the signing of Spanish midfielder Rai Marchan a little over a month ago.
Having spent his whole career plying his trade in the lower divisions of the Spanish football pyramid, there seemed to be little information available on the new recruit outside of the occasional comment from excited fans of previous clubs.
To try and get an understanding of what we might expect from Victory’s new arrival, Kick360 sat down with Diari D’Andorra and MARCA journalist Adrià Esteban to find out more.
“Rai Marchan is what is known in football as a ‘5’. A player who initiates the ball transition between defence and midfield” says Esteban.
A defensive minded midfielder, Marchan likes to sit deep, acting as an anchor between defence and attack. His ability to read the game ensures he often breaks up play with a well timed interception, though he’s certainly not afraid to put in a tackle or to drop back in to the defensive line when out of possession.
He’s incredibly comfortable with the ball at his feet too, capable of taking a pass under pressure and distributing it amongst his team mates with his impressive passing range.
“He has a good touch on the ball, he is skilled, not very fast and stands out for his positional intelligence. He knows how to play the game very well and gives the team fluidity.”
This intelligence and understanding of the game is undoubtedly a result of his formidable footballing education.
A graduate of the Real Madrid Academy, he continued his development in the reserve sides of some of La Liga’s biggest clubs, including Real Madrid Castilla and Valencia Mestalla, before ultimately arriving at FC Andorra.
Despite being based across the Pyrenees in neighbouring Andorra, the club have played their football within the Spanish system since the last 1940s.
A takeover by Barcelona icon Gerard Pique in 2018 has seen Els Tricolors undergo a rebrand and reach new heights both on and off the field; narrowly missing out on promotion the the Segunda Division in 2021.
An owner is not all they share with the Catalan giants.
“Andorra wants to provide itself with a hallmark that bases its football on the model of FC Barcelona. That is to say, an associative play, with control of the ball, high pressure after loss of the ball and wide open ends on both sides.”
He was a key component of this style of play for much of his time at the club.
“Rai Marchan was one of the team’s captains and had been with the club for more than two years. He was a player loved by the club and respected by his teammates. With the first two coaches, Gabri and Nacho Castro he was a regular player in all the lineups, while with Eder Sarabia he lost weight in the starting eleven.”
Having fallen somewhat out of favour under the new management, the club agreed to terminate his contract a year early, paving the way for his move to the A-League.
Off the pitch, he’s intelligent and well spoken.
“I had the opportunity to interview him once for a report. I think that as a person he is a very sensible and smart guy, interesting to listen to because he knows the ins and outs of football very well.”
Outside of the football, he has a keen interest in the world of business, possessing a graduate qualification in Business Administration from Madrid’s Universidad Camilo José Cela and based on his social media accounts, appears to be a competent English speaker, which bodes well for him settling in quickly at his new club.
While by his own admission Esteban is no expert on football in Australia, he does feel Marchan will give everything to ensure his spell in blue and navy is a successful one.
“I suppose it will be a very enriching experience for him. The more his team has the ball, the more Rai will enjoy and show his football. He is a player who is going to fight to earn the confidence of the coach and I have no doubt that he has not come to Australia on vacation.”
Given the total apathy demonstrated by some of the clubs recent imports, this should make for pleasant reading for weary Victory fans.