For over a decade now, Marcelo has held down the left-back position. The Brazilian has been the undisputed man as he has seen off any and all competition. However, after a questionable campaign last season, Marcelo now faces tough competition in Ferland Mendy.
With the season now underway, Zinedine Zidane faces the tough predicament of choosing between the established name or the hungry young star. Whilst Marcelo had a less than impressive campaign last season, the Brazilian is rivaled by few in world football with the quality he brings.
At his sparkling best, the former Fluminense man is a force. He marauds the entire flank as he brings an extra element of skill to Los Blancos attack. Fans only have to cast their minds back to the double winning 2016/17 season to visualise what he does at his best.
With 19 goal contributions alongside his dazzling performances, it is easy to understand why Zidane is hoping the Brazilian reignites the fire that is slowly beginning to fade.
Whilst this isn’t the first time that Marcelo has faced competition for his place, it is perhaps the most vulnerable he has been to losing it. The Brazilian spent large stints of last season on the bench as Castilla graduate Sergio Reguillon impressed, something that had not been done at Real for some time.
The last time Marcelo faced any stiff competition for his place? The season Real Madrid lifted La Decima. Throughout the season, Marcelo battled back and forth with Fabio Coentrao for the starting left-back spot at Real Madrid, a battle eventually won by the Brazilian. Ever since he has faced little to no competition and perhaps that is something, along with natural decline, that has led to his downturn in form.
Joining the club this summer for €50m, Ferland Mendy poses a challenge for Marcelo. The Frenchman is widely regarded as one of the very best rising talents in the world in his position. Having initially been told he wouldn’t play again. A debilitating injury suffered as a youngster, Mendy had to learn to walk again before rising through the ranks in France going from PSG’s academy to Mantois 78 to Le Harve to Lyon.
The Frenchman has shown his incredible ability on his rise to the top. In his final season in France, Mendy’s stats at left-back highlighted exactly why so many top clubs were pursuing his signature. The defender completed more dribbles than ANY defender in Europe’s top 5 leagues with 102. Not only was he completing so many in total, but his completion rate was also incredible. Mendy completed 75.7% of his dribbles, the highest of any player in France last season.
His per 90 stats last season continue to paint the picture of just how good he will be. He completed 1.7 dribbles per 90, more than any Real Madrid defender, 1.4 key passes per 90, the same as Marcelo who was the highest amongst the defenders – his tackles completed were lower than Carvajal and Marcelo, however, he was dribbled past just 0.1 times per 90 in Ligue 1 and 0.4 times in the Champions League. For comparison? Marcelo and Carvajal were dribbled past at least once per 90 in La Liga last season.
He made his official debut for Los Blancos in a 2-2 draw against Villarreal and impressed immediately. Putting up a team high 4 tackles and 4 interceptions during the game, he wasn’t dribbled past once during the 90 – particularly impressive when 54% of the opponents’ attack came down his side. He also contributed going forward, completing 1 dribble, 4 accurate long-balls and completed 88% of his 51 passes.
As the season progresses, the battle between the Brazilian and the Frenchman could be massive for Real this season. It could very well bring the best out of Marcelo once again whilst also providing the boost in his game that Mendy needs.
Should the Brazilian rediscover his best, it will be interesting to see how Zidane and Mendy handle the distribution of minutes. However, should Marcelo still find himself stagnating, Zidane can take respite knowing he’s got a future world-class talent in the form of Ferland Mendy waiting to seize his opportunity.