Marouane Fellaini, at the end of the season before last, was a highly promising Everton midfielder primed for a big move, feared throughout the Premier League for a potent cocktail of height, elbows, chest control, and frequent moments of footballing class.
Marouane Fellaini, at the end of last season, was something between a comedy and a tragedy. With a £27.5m price-tag weighing heavy around his neck, he was derided up and down the country as a potent symbol of a deeply terrible Manchester United side. The manager that bought him has been sacked, and reports suggest that United are looking to cut their losses and move him on.
Caps: 50, Goals: 8
Service for Belgium: Fellaini recently won his fiftieth cap for Belgium, and has been a consistent presence at the heart of this young, emerging, super-sexy Belgium team. He played in seven of Belgium's ten qualification games for Brazil 2014, as the Red Devils -- er, the other Red Devils -- progressed unbeaten from a potentially tricky group that included both Croatia and Serbia.
What makes him interesting: "I don't understand why Manchester United bought him to play in a system of two No. 6s. Marouane is a box-to-box player." Belgium manager Marc Wilmots there, helpfully announcing to all profile writers exactly what he'll asking Fellaini to do. Alongside the more defensively-minded Axel Witsel, Fellaini will spend his time roaming up and down the pitch, putting himself about when Belgium don't have the ball, supporting the attack and circulating the ball when they do. Opponents won't enjoy coping with his physical presence, while his underrated footballing ablity will make him more than just a spoiler.
That's the theory. But at United this season, Fellaini has looked utterly out of place. Clearly lacking self-belief from the moment he arrived, his technique has disintegrated, and where at Everton he was a guaranteed even when not playing particularly well. Two moments encapsulate his so-far short United career: one an entirely witless elbow into the face of Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta's face, the desperate gesture of a player wholly outmatched, the other a mesmeric dribble against Bayern Munich, where poor Fellaini collected the ball on the edge of his own box and, losing control with every step, charged in a straight line directly out of play on the opposite flank.
What to expect in Brazil: Fellaini will almost certainly start; Wilmots has kept faith with him, and has identified this tournament as a chance for Fellaini to get "revenge". After that, who knows? It's possible that a change of circumstances might see Fellaini's confidence return, along with his first touch, his ability to kick the ball competently, and everything else he lost along the way. But it wouldn't be a surprise to see him underwhelm, so miserable has he been for much of this season. One thing, though, is certain: he's definitely going to get booked for a flailing arm.