Precious few Bundesliga debuts have been as spectacular as Martin Fenin's explosive start in the German top flight. In his first appearance for Eintracht Frankfurt, the winter newcomer netted a hat-trick against Hertha BSC at the Berlin Olympic stadium on 2 February, single-handedly firing his new club to a 3-0 away win over the men from the capital. "I never imagined it would start like this. But it's tremendous and it's given us enormous belief as a team," Fenin told FIFA.com.
The Czech international made the switch from FK Teplice for a €4
million fee in the January transfer window, but the unencumbered
star-in-the-making felt no pressure at all before his first outing
for Frankfurt, despite his status as the club's record signing.
"That kind of thing doesn't bother me at all," he
said. "All I want to do is play football, because I love this
job. Everything else is just a sideshow, although I will admit to a
few nerves before my debut against Hertha BSC Berlin, simply
because it was my first match in the Bundesliga."
Fenin was Eintracht's match-winner in his second run-out too, providing the assist for his side's opener at home to Arminia Bielefeld and himself stepping up to double the advantage. Frankfurt ultimately won 2-1 to go seventh in the standings after 19 matches, but the youngster swiftly moved to dampen the feverish expectations awakened at the club. "I know it sounds ridiculous, but if we don't collect any more points from now on, we'll be relegated. We have to keep pushing for as many points as we can possibly muster. Our goal is 45 points plus some - and we'll only turn to other matters once we're there."
Eintracht coach Friedhelm Funkel and chairman Heribert Bruchhagen identified Fenin as a target many months ago, and their long and meticulous courtship of the player surely explains the up-and-coming striker's decision to opt for Frankfurt despite interest from a number of the continent's biggest names. "I really wanted to play in the Bundesliga. The league has fantastic stadiums with incredible supporters, and the Bundesliga is Europe's third-best league after England and Spain. Also, I learned German at school, and I think that's helped me settle so quickly," he explains.
The star of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 instantly felt at home in Frankfurt, due in part to Eintracht's rapidly growing fan base. "The Eintracht fans wished me the best of luck on my homepage, and said they were really looking forward to seeing me play. The supporters are absolutely unbelievable."
Given how far Martin Fenin has come in such a short space of time, the sky would seem to be the limit for the youngster capped four times by his country. He signed professional forms in the Czech Republic at the tender age of 15, making his top-flight debut for FK Teplice just a year later.
He earned junior international honours at every level from U-16
through to U-20, crowning his youth career with the runners-up spot
in Canada, before veteran coach Karel Bruckner handed the 1.81
metre (5ft 11in) striker his senior international debut on 22
August last year. "I just hope I can stay fit," declares
the man born in the Czech city of Cheb. "I'll work
extremely hard and try to be as successful as possible. Obviously,
I don't know where this is all going. I really enjoy my
football and want to win as often as possible. The rest will just
Fenin hit the headlines with three goals at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2007, as the Czechs battled through to the final and a narrow 2-1 defeat against an ominously powerful Argentine line-up. The Eintracht newcomer is no glory-seeker, talking up the importance of the team: "We played very well, and the tournament helped every individual in the team develop as a player. It was a vital experience for me. All the matches at the U-20 World Cup were of a very high standard."
The player's international ambitions are now focused on the senior Czech side and this summer's continental showdown in Austria and Switzerland. "We're in a tough section with hosts Switzerland, Portugal and Turkey, but are there any easy groups at the EURO? Obviously, we'll do everything we can to progress from the group, and then we'll see how it goes - knockout rounds are always hard and you need plenty of luck. But along with Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands, Czech Republic are among the favourites to make the final. Mind you, only two teams can make it that far," the striker muses, making no secret of his lofty ambitions on the continental stage.
In this respect, young Fenin has his sights set on the long term, and specifically the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. "We definitely ought to come through our qualifying group," was his verdict. "I'd rate Poland as our most difficult opponents, although Northern Ireland and Slovakia are no pushovers. But obviously, we want to make it onto the plane to South Africa."
Watching this budding prospect develop will be one of the footballing pleasures of the coming years. If Martin Fenin can avoid injury, continue his dazzling progress and maintain his unfettered approach to the game, a stellar career on the European stage surely beckons. And perhaps this is the 20-year-old talent poised to inherit the mantle of previous greats of the Czech gam such as Milan Baros, Jan Koller and Pavel Nedved.