But why so many? Is it a case of alpha males trying to outdo one another? “On top of competitiveness, it could be about memories. Footballers have so many dates – moments they want to mark, matches they’ve won. A lot of Otamendi’s tattoos, for example, are for moments to do with his football career: the Copa América, the Finalissima, the World Cup.”
Marín’s own face and body are testament to his passion for his subject. A rose sits beside his left ear. He counts 18 tattoos on his hands and arms and is particularly proud of his right arm, which features artists ranging from Salvador Dalí to Pablo Picasso (there’s even a spot for Walt Disney – and his canine creation Goofy). On the same arm, forming a formidable dream dinner-party guest list, are James Dean and Bob Dylan.
There are others. Standing in his booth in this smart, white-walled studio, he zips open his baggy jeans to reveal, on his left thigh, his first self-inked tattoo: a ship accompanied by the legend Perdiendo el norte (All at sea). Marín was 17 when curiosity about tattoos led to a friend’s brother branding his age on his hip. Four years later, it had become his calling.
“I was studying art and a friend of mine got given a machine from a Chinese corner shop that wasn’t so good, but with that we started messing around and trying things. I’d tattoo him and he’d tattoo me. Little by little you start getting the technique and I got the idea of pursuing this full time.”
He dismissed an early idea of a career in graphic design; instead, he took a course at Ganga Studio then spent a year learning from artists in different parts of Spain, practising on pig skin to perfect his art. “I turned 30 this year so it’s been almost nine years,” he says of his trajectory. “I think a tattooist is considered an apprentice for the first five years. From there, then you can consider you’ve got enough experience to take on any type of tattoo or challenge. Some people ask for animals, buildings, cars, but principally my style is centred on portraits.”
Tattoos of family members can present the biggest challenges. He recalls a job for Hélder Costa, the former Wolves, Leeds United and Valencia winger. “Hélder Costa asked me for a portrait of one of his daughters. Because it is so personal and so easy to compare with, that was quite difficult. If it’s not a perfect likeness, he is going to know!”
Marín’s first footballer was the now Porto forward Toni Martínez, a fellow son of Murcia. Yet he credits the power of social media for taking his work to an audience (and would-be clients) far beyond his home city. He adds: “At the start, when I began doing tattoos, the whole idea was just becoming popular and I was lucky to get published in a lot of tattoo magazines.”
Today he travels far and wide. “I’ve tattooed players in the UK, in Germany, in Portugal, in Italy. I’ve tattooed [basketball player] Lonzo Ball, who plays for the Lakers, and that was perhaps the longest journey as I had to go to Los Angeles. But my clients are largely in Europe.”