The king struggles in LEC return: Has Rekkles lost his spark?

The hype for Rekkles' return to the LEC was massive, but can he still perform at a high level?

When the title of LEC G.O.A.T. comes up in general conversation, only a couple of names pop up consistently for League of Legends fans.

Some look to crown the greatest player at what many consider the most pivotal role in the game, the mid lane. With that line of thought, many land on six-time LEC champion G2 mid laner Rasmus Caps Borregaard Winther. Some fans may lean toward longevity at such a high level of play like MAD Lions support Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov, whos been on a starting tier-one European roster for over eight years. 

But there’s one player who combines a winning pedigree in Europe with longevity in the region: AD carry Martin Rekkles Larsson, often known as the Fnatic King.

Rekkles hasnt always been a part of Fnatic throughout his decade-plus playing tier one and two League. To start 2021, Rekkles made one of the most shocking decisions in professional League by switching from Fnatic to G2. The move was far from successful, though, as G2 missed out on the World Championship for the first time in the orgs history. Rekkles then exited the LEC altogether to join Karmine Corp in the LFL. Even in a less competitive league, Rekkles could not elevate Karmine Corp to an LFL championship in either the Spring or Summer Split. In fact, KC didnt even finish top five in the 2022 LFL Summer Split and Rekkles once again became a free agent in the offseason.

Many fans began to worry that one of the titans, the arguable greatest of all time in Europe, might have been dealt the final blow to his professional career. That was until Fnatic and Rekkles began to tease a reunion throughout the most recent offseason, later confirmed by Fnatic in mid-December. As quickly as LEC fans began to look back on Rekkles career with rose-tinted glasses, the hype of his return went into maximum overdrive. But Rekkles had been out of the LEC for over a year and wasnt outclassing lower-tier talent. How well could he compete in the top European league against players like Comp, Hans sama, and Carzzy?

It felt like a lot of the “Rekkles is washed” talk had been drowned out by the overall hype of his return to the LEC. In reality, Rekkles shouldnt have been put on this pedestal by fans before even setting foot back on stage. Rarely has a player ever returned to pro play and immediately looked like their old self. If anyone could do it, though, it would be the AD carry king of Europe.

Photo by Michal Konkol via Riot Games

From the small sample size of Rekkles’ first week back in the LEC, the first two games were resounding losses for Fnatic in which the veteran had a minimal impact. The first game against Vitality saw Rekkles finish with a 1/3/2 scoreline and a measly 23-percent kill participation in the loss, according to stats site Leaguepedia. The second game was even uglier for Fnatic, a 23-minute drubbing by G2 that made the gold and black look completely outclassed. Rekkles was arguably the silver lining for Fnatic with a 3/3/1 Zeri performance, but nobody will remember that in the grand scheme of the loss.

Through the first two matches, Rekkles was showing signs of a former god on Summoners Rift turned human. There is nothing that can stop Rekkles from balling out on stage when locking in Sivir, though. And to avoid a 0-3 start for Fnatic, the Swedish marksman did just that. He produced a perfect 5/0/7 scoreline with 85-percent kill participation and an astounding 10.63 CS-per-minute rate in the win against KOI. No matter how much the cards are stacked against Rekkles, he can turn to Sivir and dominate the game. 

This left a sweet aftertaste to what was overall a bitter pill to swallow for Rekkles first week back in the LEC. The innate overreaction to week one of the LEC was that Rekkles is washed. There is a resounding amount of historical evidence to support that Rekkles may be way past his prime as well. Who knows how the meta will shift throughout the year for or against picking Sivir, and if Rekkles becomes that reliant on one champion, whats stopping teams from giving a ban toward it? 

Photo by Michal Konkol via Riot Games

But there are two main issues with labeling Rekkles washed or past his prime” based just on the first week of the season. Out of all LEC teams in week one, Fnatic had far and away the hardest schedule to kick off their season. Facing one of the LEC powerhouses in G2 in their second game of the Winter Split is rough, not to mention their day one opponent Vitality, who ended the week undefeated at 3-0. The one team Fnatic did beat was KOI, who are the Rogue roster from last year under a new org without Odoamne. 

Unfortunately for Fnatic and Rekkles, the team only secured one other win in the 2023 LEC Winter Split regular season. Fnatic finished with a 2-7 record, one win away from a chance at the group stage.

What’s really intriguing about the terrible split for Fnatic, though, is Rekkles had good performances in some of the team’s losses. In a loss to Team Heretics, Rekkles finished 8/2/4 in the contest and was just simply outscaled by Jackspektra’s Zeri in the 40-minute battle. In Fnatic’s loss to MAD Lions, Rekkles was a deathless 3/0/1 while finishing up over 30 CS on Carzzy.

But when looking back at the season as a whole, Rekkles certainly underperformed compared to the rest of the LEC’s AD carries. The veteran had 26 kills, 17 deaths, and 28 assists throughout the 2023 LEC Winter Split, according to League stats site Oracle’s Elixir. This resulted in him posting a 3.2 KDA, tied with Astralis’ Kobbe for the third-lowest mark in the LEC. Interestingly enough, after his “Rekkles-esque” nearly perfect performance on Sivir in week one, the Swedish marksmen didn’t log a single game on Sivir the rest of the split.

The worst part about Fnatic’s split was they had control of their destiny but failed to beat Astralis in the final week of the regular season. After a loss to SK Gaming, Astralis finished one spot above them to move on to groups. In those final two matches, Rekkles was a quiet 2/6/1, failing to step up as he has historically to push Fnatic into the playoffs, or the group stage in this LEC format.

Now it has only been one LEC split so far, a shorter one compared to past splits at that. But there is one player who has a ton of comparisons to Rekkles across the pond. Doublelift also struggled out the gate in his return to the LCS, but the only difference is that DL has seemingly already found his old form. A 2-0 second week for 100 Thieves behind Doublelift’s stellar two games on Zeri boasting a 17/3/12 stat line has quickly hushed any haters. That’s already as many wins as Fnatic earned all Winter Split in a single slate of LCS matches.

It’s clearly hard to return to tier-one professional League and immediately perform well. Any high-level competitive game or sport is difficult to come back to after a hiatus. The problem is esports teams are some of the most cutthroat businesses out there, and a historic org like Fnatic will have many calling for changes already.

League fans can be rash and quick to judge, especially on social media. After week one, the alarm bells went off too suddenly with such a small sample size. But now, after one of Fnatic’s worst single splits in org history, those blaring sirens are even louder. Theres no denying that the former four-time LEC champ is not at the same level fans have become so used to, and with all the backlash, Rekkles’ leash is getting shorter and shorter by the minute. Who knows how many more shots Rekkles will get in what could be his final chance in the LEC. 

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