Real Madrid: Should we be concerned about Marcelo?

Real Madrid, Marcelo (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Marcelo (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid left back Marcelo did not play up to his standard against Cadiz, but is there cause for concern as the season continues?

Last season, we saw Real Madrid left back Marcelo take some steps back, which was to be expected now that he is past the age of 30. Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, and Karim Benzema are more central players, whereas as an attacking fullback, Marcelo’s decline is more likely to be noticeable.

Marcelo played reasonably well in 2019-2020. In fact, he was one of the best left backs in Europe, playing on a team with an even better left back in Ferland Mendy, especially defensively. There was a defensive drop-off whenever Marcelo played instead of Mendy, but the experienced Brazilian also offered a bonus in chance-creation and creativity.

We didn’t see any of that bonus from Marcelo against Cadiz on Saturday, and that caused a lot of alarm. I’m sure you’ve seen the troubling statistic, too. Every time Real have lost in La Liga since Zinedine Zidane’s return, Marcelo has been in the starting XI.

That’s not good. At all.

Real Madrid have one of Europe’s best left backs in front of Marcelo

But there are two things to consider here. Firstly, is that enough of a sample size to say that Real Madrid are that much worse with Marcelo on the pitch? And then secondly, does that actually say Marcelo has played poorly?

I think it’s safe to say that Mendy is, at this stage of their careers, the better player. That’s no knock on Marcelo in itself either. How many left backs in Europe are better than Mendy? Alphonso Davies and Andrew Robertson? Is that it? And certainly, I can’t think of a top-level left back who is better than Mendy defensively.

Marcelo is the backup. He isn’t a player to start in most matches. Zinedine Zidane should call him in for games against teams like Cadiz and maybe bigger games where the matchup does favor him. After all, Marcelo did a fine job against Barcelona in the earlier Clasico this year.

That said, you’d expect Marcelo to play a lot better than he did against Cadiz. He was awful in every phase of the game. His defending was non-existent. And he didn’t even add his customary grace in the attack. Marcelo lost the ball frequently, clogged up the middle of the pitch (probably not his fault, but still), and offered no real threat with his passing.

It is important for Real Madrid fans to be fair to Marcelo

All of that is uncharacteristic for Marcelo, and, unlike Toni Kroos or Luka Modric in midfield, fatigue cannot be blamed for his poor performance.

But is it fair to have a conversation about Marcelo being a liability after a game in which so many other Real Madrid players struggled? Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior are two key stars in the attack, but they weren’t much better than Marcelo at fulfilling their duties.

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Marcelo, the backup left back, is not what’s holding back Real Madrid. An overall lack of attacking talent, some issues to iron out tactically with said attack, and injuries are more fundamental flaws. No, Marcelo is no longer a world-class fullback, but he is still among the best players at the position in La Liga. His influence on the team should not be summed up by an off performance against Cadiz.