An ode to Marcelo, and the legacy he created at Real Madrid

Real Madrid, Marcelo (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Marcelo (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) /

At the time of writing this, I don’t really know what the title is going to be. Since it was Marcelo’s last few days as Real Madrid captain, I wanted to write about him. I didn’t think about what theme to go for or which direction I want this to go in. I just wanted to write about the greatest left-back the game has ever seen. Marcelo’s legacy at Real Madrid is something that holds great value to everyone in and around the club, and it’s only fair that he gets the send-off he deserves.

Speaking of, although I think the gesture is the most important part of all this, I still think that the farewell should’ve happened at the Santiago Bernabeu. That’s the place where Marcelo made all his fans fall head over heels with his incredible leadership skills, his game on the ball, his chemistry with the players and his love for the club. It was at the greatest stadium in the world, and I think that the construction work and all that could’ve been put aside for this one day.

But, I understand. It’s a business, and it needs to go on. So does Marcelo, who although didn’t want to leave the club, understood and respected the club’s policy and their decision to not continue with the Brazilian beyond the 2021-22 season.

For one more day, Marcelo is Real Madrid’s captain, and I am sure it’s going to be a very, very emotional day. I don’t see how it’s not going to be one. The man shed so many tears during the celebrations at the Bernabeu after the Champions League win, it’s only going to be more difficult for him, especially because of how much value the day holds, and what it means. The thought of a farewell would make someone emotional, especially if that person has stayed at the club for 15 years, and has had this big of an impact.

I think that there have been many, many players in this club’s long, rich history that have absolutely adored the club, and have publicly shown their affection for it. But, even then, there is absolutely no one like Marcelo. There was never a guy who played with such emotion, and passion and was as animated as him in the club’s history. Of course, staying for 15 years definitely helps you curate that bond with the fans, but even then, it’s simply exemplary how much love Marcelo has for Real Madrid, and it’s a staple for the Fede Valverdes, the Vinicius Juniors, all those young players who are following his path and share that love for the team, as it gives them an idea of what it could be like once you’ve done it all, won it all, and showered the club with the love you have for it.

Marcelo in his prime was something else. There are many, many left-backs that carry a big offensive load for their respective teams, and many of them are not as good defensively as they are going forward, but Marcelo was simply cut from a different cloth. I don’t think there’s anyone else that is cut from that cloth. Maybe Roberto Carlos, that’s really it.

Marcelo was never known for his defensive output, but he didn’t have to be. Because of what he did in the offense for the team, the kind of chemistry he had with the players in the attack, his defensive work mattered little. Of course, Real had to pay because of his positional imbalance sometimes, but I think you’d take that trade-off if that means you get the best offensive output from a full-back at an incredibly high level.

Real Madrid, Marcelo
Real Madrid, Marcelo (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images) /

That game vs Bayern in 2017, however, was a prime example of where his greatness and his mentality were able to take him. It wasn’t just offensively. We’re used to seeing him perform at that level. But when the stakes are as high as they were during that game, when everyone on the team knew how big the task was, and how important it was for them to win, Marcelo rose up as high as he possibly could’ve, and dropped an incredible performance to save Real Madrid’s Champions League campaign.

The man was everywhere. That’s the thing about him that separates him from other good or great left-backs. It’s not just about what you do on a weekly basis. It’s about how much you transcend when your team has its back against the wall, and what all you’re able to do to win the most intense game, the most important, the most challenging one. Marcelo showed that he was made for those nights. And everyone at the stadium, on 18th April 2017, learned that in the most beautiful fashion.

I was thinking before I started writing about how much I will have to say about Marcelo, but right now, there’s not a lot. I don’t have that many words to say about him, because whatever I do have, it’s been said before. Marcelo’s name has been etched on the club’s history time and time again, and each time that happens, someone picks up the pen and starts writing about his greatness.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Marcelo as a player during his final years at the club, after his decline. But, I obviously didn’t hate him for it. I couldn’t hate him, not after the things he’s done for the club, and the love he has for the club. Marcelo as a player had a decline, and that’s normal. It’s natural. But for Marcelo as a person, my love only grew stronger, because even when he resorted to the bench, he didn’t complain about the lack of minutes, he never talked ill of Real Madrid to the press, and he was always there when the team needed him, whether that is psychologically or otherwise.

I only realised how much I am going to miss Marcelo when I watched him play his final game for Real at the Bernabeu, and when I saw how happy he was when the team won their 14th Champions League final.

Whenever I think of Marcelo, the first image, or instance that comes to my mind is when he won the ball off of Robben in that Champions League game vs Bayern, and immediately sent out a roar, indicating that it is his night. Robben, at the time, laughed. But deep down, he knew that there is no chance Bayern would be able to get past Real Madrid that night.

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Marcelo wore the number 12 for so many years, and I think there is no better person to give that number to. You know how the team’s fans are called “the number 12”? Well, Marcelo represented us, every single one of us, each time he was on the pitch. And there isn’t a more fitting number for the Brazilian than that, and he showed it every time he wore the great white shirt of Real Madrid.