15 years in Madrid: A look back at Marcelo’s career

After 15 years at Real Madrid, and innumerable trophies, Marcelo Vieira da Silva Júnior, known to the footballing world as Marcelo, has left the Spanish giants. It’s difficult to summarise just how strong the partnership between Marcelo and Real Madrid is.

At the start of the 2021-22 season, Marcelo was announced as the new club captain, as he was the longest serving player left at the club after the departure of Sergio Ramos. He was the club’s first non-Spanish captain in over a century. Staying until the summer of 2022 also sees Marcelo leave as the most successful player in the club’s history.

Winning La Liga with the club in April 2022 saw the Brazilian win his 24th major trophy in the white of Real Madrid, taking him clear of Paco Gento. He went on to lift the Champions League too, after the victory over Liverpool at the Stade de France, taking the total trophy count of his Madrid career to 25.

Of those 25 trophies, remarkably, five are Champions Leagues. Six La Liga titles, four Club World Cups, two Copas del Rey, three UEFA Super Cups, and five Supercopas de España make up the remainder. The strength of the relationship between the defender and the club is hard to sum up, even with such a remarkable trophy haul.

Marcelo arrived in Madrid in January 2007, signed from Fluminense. He was hailed by many as the successor to Roberto Carlos in the left-back role, both for club and country. He played with the legendary Brazilian for half a season, before the veteran left for Fenerbahçe.

His earlier years at Real Madrid saw Marcelo moved around a little. During Juande Ramos’ tenure in the dugout, Marcelo was seen as more of a winger who could also play at full-back, because of his exceptional technique, and his effectiveness in attacking situations. This trend continued in the 2009-10 season, which can be seen as a breakthrough season for Marcelo.

He began to be widely recognised as one of the best left-sided players in the game, and he always offered good football odds for goals and assists from a defender, nominally at least. Under Manuel Pellegrini, Marcelo continued to play higher up the pitch, and he topped the La Liga assist charts in 2009-10.

The next season saw the arrival of José Mourinho in Madrid, and Marcelo was moved back to the left side of defence. Marcelo overcame any defensive concerns that critics had, and was an ever-present in Mourinho’s side. He established himself as Real Madrid’s left back for the foreseeable future. His performances earned him praise from none other than Diego Maradona, who described the Brazilian as the best player in the league, after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Marcelo had secured his place at left back in the Madrid side, and in the hearts of the Madrid fanbase, for the foreseeable future, and continued to be a regular starter for Los Blancos. However, injuries were a problem for Marcelo, cutting short his playing time in the 2012-13 season. He signed his most recent contract in September 2017, tying him down till the summer of 2022.

The number of appearances he made began to tail off in the 2019-20 season, and a combination of injuries and age saw him fall behind Ferland Mendy in the depth chart at left-back. Despite his hero status at the club, Marcelo was approaching his mid-30s, and the club had to look for a replacement. He continued to be a bit-part player in the time since and, despite being named club captain for the 2021-22 season, Marcelo was relegated to the role of experienced backup.

Now released after the expiry of his contract, Marcelo’s time in Madrid has finally come to an end. Football is rarely sympathetic enough to provide a fairytale story, but Marcelo’s time in the Spanish capital has ended with him captaining the team to a league and Champions League double. For a young boy from Rio de Janeiro, that’s as good as it gets.

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