It’s November, 15, 2006. Another press conference is set up inside the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
The newest signing to join Real Madrid is about to be announced to the world. But who is the 18-year-old coming from Brazil?
It’s Marcelo Vieira.
Fourteen years ago, former club president Ramón Calderón and former head coach Fabio Capello sought out the Fluminense FC defender and put pen to paper to get Marcelo to wear the white jersey. Since then, the deal has proved to be invaluable.
The current no. 12 has grown to be a fan favourite both on and off the pitch and has evolved from ‘the Roberto Carlos replacement’ to have his own iconic status at the club. His 6.5 million euro price tag is surely one of the best transfer steals since the turn of the century.
Between his leadership, dedication to the badge and effortless grace on the ball Marcelo is a player that captures everything about Real Madrid and gives his heart to the club. Just try to get through his article for The Players’ Tribune without getting any chills.
“For me to be the longest-serving foreign player to wear the Real Madrid shirt is more than an honor. It is a fairytale. It is nonsense. It is insane” - Marcelo for The Players’ Tribune
But what happens when the inevitable is around the corner? A Real Madrid without Marcelo.
Statistically speaking, the peak age for a footballer is set to be around 27 years old and at the current age of 31, it’s time to talk about parting ways with the Brazilian and preparing for the future.
Over the last few seasons, Madridistas have been fortunate enough to witness the growth and development of one of the world’s most well-known left-backs.
Marcelo’s knack for passing, strength on the ball and need for speed along the wing has provided the club with some outstanding performances on the pitch that truly can’t be replaced.
Over 498 appearances, he has scored 36 goals and provided 94 assists. The seasons between 2014 and 2018, in particular, were some of his best where he spent anywhere between 3000-4000 minutes on the pitch. Throughout those four years, his market value almost tripled from 25 million euros to 70 million.
Not bad for a left-back, right? The versatility he exemplifies has been a crucial asset to Real Madrid’s record-breaking UEFA Champions League haul.
Yet this season, things have slowed down quite abruptly and current head coach Zinedine Zidane is slowly introducing Marcelo’s successor, 24-year-old Ferland Mendy, who is proving to give the veteran a run for his money regarding the starting spot at left-back.
Since September, four separate injuries have limited Marcelo’s presence on the pitch but these, of course, come with age. The Frenchman as a result has had 1,241 minutes on the pitch compared to the Brazilian’s 896.
Despite Marcelo returning to the squad at the beginning of the new year, the left-back spot still went to Mendy during the Spanish Super Cup against both Valencia and Atletico Madrid. Marcelo played for 19 minutes as a substitute in the semi-final and did not feature at all in the final.
Choosing to keep the veteran on the bench with a season-changing trophy on the line means Zidane had 100 per cent in Mendy to hold such a responsibility. And he proved himself well.
The La Liga match against Sevilla on January 19, however, saw a rare change in the starting XI as Zidane opted to give the Brazilian a chance to make an impression (and the opportunity to wear the captain’s armband in the absence of Sergio Ramos).
Yet, Marcelo’s performance was far from anything we’re used to seeing.
He only had 58 touches on the ball, 42 passes, one tackle, lost posession and ran into a wall of fatigue. Zidane made the swap for Mendy after 71 minutes.
In fact, his current form has dropped so much that his market value decreased to 20 million euros in December of 2019 — a number that hasn’t been tagged to his name since 2011.
There are some games where Marcelo steps on the pitch and there’s a quick glimpse of the past but his decreased performances make him an unreliable player in terms of quality.
Against Sevilla, Zidane made the gesture and gave Marcelo the benefit of the doubt, honouring his veteran (and vital) presence within the team yet what needs to be acknowledged is that Ferland Mendy is now the better option for the team.
For the sake of the club and the season, it’s time to come to terms with this unfathomable truth about the beloved defender. We are nearing the end of his brilliant career.
Since the moment he put on the jersey for the first time in 2006, Marcelo has earned himself the right to be considered a club legend. Will he stick around until the end of his contract in 2022? Maybe, maybe not.
We just need to savour the last bit of sparkle he has to give to the team.