Exclusive - Hibs playmaker opens up on 'beautiful' football and telepathic understanding with team-mate

On the same wavelength: Marcondes (left) and Le Fondre are developing a promising partnership.On the same wavelength: Marcondes (left) and Le Fondre are developing a promising partnership.
On the same wavelength: Marcondes (left) and Le Fondre are developing a promising partnership. | SNS Group
Marcondes: 'We have a plan - but we also play on instinct.'

Emi Marcondes is the first to acknowledge that that beautiful game cannot always be bonny. Even managers blessed with the finest collection of footballing talent in the world understand, he points out, the need to grind and battle, to get a nick on the ball and play off scraps.

But the Danish playmaker, an experienced campaigner who declares himself completely committed to his loan spell with Hibs, doesn’t go to bed at night dreaming of ‘lumping balls into the mixer for the big man’ and hoping someone sclaffs one in from four yards. The poetry and music of the game, the combinations as exhilarating as any syncopated rhythm section or sweetly-sung harmony, those are what really motivate Marcondes.

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The Bournemouth No. 10, who spent a miserable eight months recovering from surgery on a long-standing foot injury, was convinced to make his competitive comeback in the Scottish Premiership following a January conversation with Hibs boss Nick Montgomery. The key element to that was Monty selling a compelling vision of how his team intended to play - once they’d found someone capable of knitting the attack together.

Marcondes, admitting that his pulse starts racing when he sees the opportunity to exploit space with a quickfire one-two-three or a killer through ball, feels like his decision to sign on for the adventure – even with all the bumps along the way so far – has paid off, the 29-year-old saying: “That is what I love about football, the beautiful combinations and the really good passing that leads to a goal. But you know it’s not always going to be like that.

“Even in the biggest games, even when a team like Manchester City play, they also have to be ready to win second balls, fight the duels. Good teams, and good players, they can do both.

“But obviously that is why I’m here, to play good football. That’s what we want. I came here to add something to the team on that side, because I really enjoy playing beautiful football. That’s what I’m trying to bring to every game.

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“Obviously we work on the attacking side. We have some structure and some organisation, a way we want to create openings, pass through and play through the opposition. You have to know where the spaces are.

“But, when you are in a game, you also play on instinct, on what you see. Good players know where the spaces are – and know what passes to play.”

Marcondes and Adam Le Fondre, a partnership delayed by the Englishman’s own injury issues, are two players who clearly share the same instincts and intuitions when they get into the final third. If last weekend’s 3-0 win over lowly Livingston is a sign of things to come, the veteran striker and the arch schemer could make all the difference as Hibs pursue the bare minimum of a top-six finish.

“You can see and feel the movement of Alf,” said Marcondes, the former Brentford attacker adding: “You can feel his understanding of the game just in the way he moves, which positions he takes up.

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“I like to play with players like that because sometimes you don’t even have to talk to them. Without a word, you know they are going to run to the near post, I’m going to be behind him … there are lots of examples like that.

“Sometimes in the buildup, I know he is just behind me, so I’ll let the ball go and run beyond. Those are the players I enjoy playing with.

“We actually have a lot of clever players here. Dylan Vente is another one. Alfie, as well, who was brilliant against Livingston.”

Given Le Fondre’s natural tendency to drop deep in order to create space in behind, there was always a risk that he would end up occupying the space where Marcondes does his best work. Squatting on his lawn and preventing him from blossoming. So far, though, it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

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Marcondes, an international footballer all the way up to Under-21 level with Denmark, said: “You look for what his movement does. If he takes that space, what you call my space, I’m going to find the spare opening, the opposite space, make the opposite movement.

“For us it’s like something natural. It’s just what you do. Not all players do that but, with him, I can just feel that.

“I know that, if I’m here, I don’t even have to look for him. I know he’s going to drop to the other space or be opposite of me, especially when we play with a No. 9 and No. 10. You’ve seen us sometimes swap, he drops into play 10 and I go one forward, which creates confusion for the defence. They don’t really know who is playing in what role – and, against Livingston, you saw the space it created for the goals. We could have scored even more.”

Described by Montgomery as “a player who brings calmness to the team,” Marcondes is heading home to Denmark for a couple of days during the international break. It’s an ideal chance to visit with family and recharge the batteries. While dreaming, perhaps, of those one-touch combinations and incisive deliveries that make football such a joy to watch. Sometimes.