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FRIDAY FEATURE: Jeremy Morel: Why we must value perseverance in football

You are taught from a young age never to give up on your dreams, that you need to keep working hard and eventually you will get to where you want to be. Mash all that up into a word and you’ll get perseverance, the ability to stick with something in the hope that eventually it will pay off and it is something we see pretty often in football. That ideal is personified in a player like Jeremy Morel, who has been consistently knocked down and brandished as a fool, only for him to get back on his feet to have another go until he eventually succeeds.

His story begins back in Brittany with his first club FC Lorient, the team he joined at just ten years old. He started as a left winger, as a lot of full-backs tend to do before being pushed back by those with more creative talent but he made the left-back spot his own, making his debut at 19 with the club still in Ligue 2.

He was consistent but never seemed to shine whilst in the second tier of French football but after managing to win promotion to Ligue 1, Morel began to steadily improve as a footballer. He was beginning to attract interest from Marseille as early as 2009 but an injury cooled their chase and he was given the captain’s armband by Christian Gourcuff for the start of the 2010-11 season, spurring him on to give what was his best season with FCL.

Morel would go on to finally join Marseille in 2011 for a fee of €2.5 million but it would not be smooth sailing from the start with the French giants. He was widely criticised, both by the media and his own fans, for some questionable performances in games that would see him used as a scapegoat for years to come. It might have been a little harsh, he certainly made mistakes but did put in some good shifts early on and the big move combined with the “panic buy” label seemed to crush his confidence very quickly.

But regardless of that and regardless of whoever has managed Morel in the last three years, Morel still gets picked to start. Time after time, Marseille have, until recently with Benjamin Mendy, failed to go out and get any real competition at the left-back position, guaranteeing his spot in the side and whilst his performances in the past season or so have been better, he’s not convincing all of his doubters.

What’s really been good for him this season is Marcelo Bielsa believing in him to move him into the back three, rather than use a more traditional centre-back, and it looks to have given Morel a new lease of life. He struggled initially, especially in the physical side of things but his ball-playing skills and his ability to move forward with the ball are vital to their defensive structure and Morel has looked more solid as the season has progressed. Not only that, the worry that Benjamin Mendy might be taking his spot only seemed to inspire him and oddly enough, both are regulars now and both are benefiting from the run within the first eleven.

It’s his versatility now that will keep him in the side rather than the temptation to start someone else, he can revert to a left-back or even a left wing-back should he be needed there and that alone has improved his standing with the club. Many French news outlets reported over the summer of the club’s desire to move him on but he now looks like he’s very much a part of El Loco’s plans for L’OM going forward. He’s played every game so far, he’s made more clearances per game than any other player in the squad whilst committing less fouls than any other regular defender, showing just how he is maturing in his new role and vindicating his place in the side.

Several different people in the Morel case have exhibited perseverance. Morel has shown it by continuing to do his job, striving to get better each day despite the knockbacks and the jibes from his own fans and that looks to have paid off. Bielsa has shown it by ignoring calls to get rid of him or replacing him with someone “better” and the enigmatic Argentinian must be doing something right, with OM sitting pretty at the top of the Ligue 1 table at the time of writing.

Now, it might be the time for the L’OM faithful to have some perseverance and begin to get behind Morel instead of getting on his back for any small tribulation he endures. Giving him that extra belief has only ever seemed to get more out and that can only be a good thing, Marseille need as many players on top of their game as they can muster if they are going to sustain a challenge for the championship this season.

N.S.

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