EXCLUSIVE: Former Melbourne Heart right-back Michael Marrone says he is already itching to get back on the field following a dream run for his side towards the back end of this season's Chinese Super League season.
Marrone signed for Shanghai Shenxin from Heart back in January of this year and has enjoyed a bumpy ride in his first season abroad.
The 26-year-old suffered almost three months on the sidelines at one point during the season but returned and helped Shenxin to a run of seven wins from their final ten league games.
“Overall it was an extremely good experience,” Marrone told au.fourfourtwo.com. “I had a lot of ups and downs in the season but the way we finished the season was definitely a good way end to it.
“With the resources that they have they made the transition for me quite good. The training was very professional when I got there but he pre-season was quite tough.
“They have their own training base, you have your own room there to stay if you want and so many staff.
“All the boys speak a little bit of English but there’s an English translator there so it helped a lot in terms team meetings and on the training ground and whatnot. Everyone was quite good towards me.
“I’m already itching to get back into it though because I missed so many games last year.
“I’m looking forward to playing as many games as I can next year and trying to finish better than we did.”
Marrone played the first six games of the 2013 CSL season before fracturing his shin after receiving a dangerous double-footed tackle.
He missed 11 weeks and returned to a team that had won ust one game in the past two months. After breaking back into the first XI, Shanghai went on a run that lifted them out of threat of relegation to seventh, the highest of the Shanghai teams.
Marrone was blown away by the quality of the top sides in the league but admits the style of play from some sides was far from pretty on the eye.
“It’s definitely a different type of game they play,” he said. “I think sometimes the pace can be quicker but sometimes it can be slower, it depends which team you’re playing. All the teams are quite different to play against.
“The first game we played (was against) Ghangzhou Evergrande and as you saw they lost one game all year and just won the Asian Champions League.
“That was a bit of a shock for me first round because they play quick, fast-paced football and all their players are quite exceptional.
“Then you play other teams, who because they’ve got a foreign coach or because the coach prefers more direct players, they play a completely different style where it’s slow-tempo and a lot of long balls.
“There’s so many teams that depending on the owners and coaches, the levels are completely different.
“The level from the top team to the bottom team is quite a gap because of the money that gets put in to it.
“The top teams in the competition are at a very high level, but then there’s teams at the bottom that I think A-League teams can beat or can do extremely well against.”
Marrone’s agent, Ritchie Hinton, said the former Adelaide United and North Queensland Fury man has what it takes to succeed in China.
"Michael has all the attributes you need to succeed in Asia - physical strength and mental resilience,” Hinton told au.fourfourtwo.com.
“Shenxin value him very highly for his toughness and his versatility - they understand that it was no accident that his return from injury mid-season coincided with a run that saw them win 7 from 10 games, climb from just outside the relegation zone to 7th in the league, above the other 2 Shanghai based teams.”
“He's played mostly in a defensive midfield role, but has filled in at right back too when required - Shenxin definitely view him as integral to breaking up opposition play and starting attacks from defence."