Only a couple of names show up frequently for League of Legends fans when the title "LEC G.O.A.T." comes up in general conversation.
Many people favor the MAD Lions' Zdravets "Hylissang" Galabov, who has been on a tier-one European roster for over eight years.
But there is one player who combines a winning pedigree in Europe with a long-term history in the region: AD carry Martin "Rekkles" Larsson, often referred to as the "Fnatic King."
Rekkles hasn't always been a part of Fnatic over his decade-plus playing in the tier one and two Leagues. In 2021, he chose to switch from Fnatic to G2, which failed to win the World Championship for the first time in the org's history. Rekkles then left the LEC altogether to join Karmine Corp in the LFL in the Spring or Summer Split. In fact, KC failed to finish top five in the 2022 LFL Summer Split.
Many fans began to wonder if one of Europe's most powerful footballers would suffer the last setback. Rekkles and Fnatic began to tease a reunion during the most recent offseason, which was later confirmed by Fnatic in mid-December. However, Rekkles had been excluded from the LEC for over a year.
The general excitement about his return to the LEC sounded like a lot of work. In reality, Rekkles shouldn't have been placed on this pedestal by fans before even getting back on stage. Rarely has a player returned to professional play and immediately looked like their old self.
Rekkles' first two games against Vitality were a shambles for the veteran, who contributed a tiny 23 percent to the loss, according to stats website Leaguepedia. The second game was even worse for Fnatic, with a 23-minute drubbing by G2.
Rekkles was showing signs of a former god on Summoner's Rift turned human over the first two matches. However, he could not help but to keep him from stoking the ball out on the stage when locking in Sivir. In his win against KOI, the Swedish marksman maintained a perfect 5/0/7 scoreline with 85 percent kill participation and an astonishing 10.63 CS-per-minute rate.
Rekkles' first week back in the LEC was a tense experience. There is evidence to support that he is way past his prime, and if Rekkles becomes too dependent on one champion, why should teams consider imposing a ban on him?
Fnatic had the hardest schedule to start their season, despite facing a LEC powerhouse in G2, who finished the week undefeated at 3-0. KOI is the Rogue roster from last year under a new org without Odoamne.
Fnatic and Rekkles' team only won once in the 2023 LEC Winter Split regular season. Fnatic finished the season with a 2-7 record, one win away from a group stage.
Rekkles had excellent performances in several of the team's losses, including a 3-2 defeat to MAD Lions.
Rekkles certainly underperformed against the rest of the LEC's AD carries throughout the 2023 winter split, according to League stats website Oracle's Elixir. This resulted in him posting the third-lowest mark in the LEC. Interestingly enough, after his "Rekkles-esque" almost perfect performance on Sivir in week one, the Swedish marksmen didn't log a single game on Sivir throughout the entire season.
Fnatic's split was that they had control of their destiny but failed to beat Astralis in the final week of the regular season, finishing one spot ahead of them to progress to groups. Rekkles was a quiet 2/6/1 in those final two matches, failing to step up as he has historically pushed Fnatic into the playoffs or the group stage in this LEC format.
So far, there has been only one LEC split, a shorter one compared to previous ones at that. Doublelift also made a ton of errors out the gate in his return to the LCS, but the only difference is that DL has apparently already found his old form. Unlike Doublelift, Fnatic has won all of his LCS matches in a single week.
It's clearly difficult 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 break. The problem is esports teams are some of the most toughest businesses out there, and a historic organization like Fnatic will have many calling for changes already.
After a disastrous single split in org history, the alarm bells went off too suddenly, and now, with such a small sample size, the sirens are even louder. Rekkles is not at the same level fans have become so used to, and with all the backlash, his leash is becoming shorter and shorter by the minute.