Pundits used to claim full-backs were nothing more than frustrated wingers and, when watching the Brazilian go on a marauding run down the flank of the Santiago Bernabeu, it’s hard to disagree with that assessment.
When Marcelo’s performances are broken down it’s his impact in the final third which continuously catches the eye. The defensive side of his game is a myth and it’s why Mohamed Salah will be in his element in Kyiv on Saturday evening, as our friends at Football Whispers explain.
The Liverpool attacker, who has 44 goals this season in all competitions, will be relishing his match-up against the Brazil international, safe in the knowledge a sixth European Cup triumph perhaps hinges on whether or not he gets the better of the 30-year-old full-back on the night.
Ever since the Reds held on in Rome to ensure their place in the final against the 12-times conquerors of Europe all the talk has centred around the battle on the Liverpool right and, because of this, Marcelo’s performances have come under intense scrutiny. His final outing of the La Liga season during Real Madrid’s 2-2 draw with Villarreal was one to forget.
The scoreline read 2-1 to Los Blancos as the game edged to a close. With just five minutes left to play, a long ball was floated into the path of Samu Castillejo. Marcelo, totally oblivious to the fact the ball was live, played the Villarreal attacker onside with inevitable consequences.
The match was a dead rubber, but the fact such an experienced player switched off with the game far from won will be a concern for Zinedine Zidane heading into the final. Especially as it’s not the first time it’s happened this season.
The Real Madrid No.12 was at fault during the 2-2 draw with Barcelona earlier in the season. He pushed on to front up Sergi Roberto but failed to cut off the passing lane. The Barca full-back managed to work the ball into Philippe Coutinho, who jinked his way past those swarming in white before laying the ball off to Luis Suarez.
The former Liverpool forward then clipped a ball into the acres of space behind the 30-year-old left-back and he was nowhere in sight as Roberto drove into the final third and set up the Uruguayan.
Against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals, Marcelo was only just inside his own half as Joshua Kimmich smashed the ball home having pushed on to support an attack. But, after a turnover of possession, he showed next to no desire to get back into a defensive position.
One of Liverpool’s many strengths is how quickly they build attacks and Salah is key to that. The prolific Egyptian often drifts into the half space between full-back and centre-back.
He’s terrorised plenty of teams this season operating in that area and caused significant damage against Manchester City and Roma playing there. Both of those sides play on the front foot but neither have a full-back who is as gung-ho as Marcelo.
The Real Madrid man averages three interceptions and tackles per 90 minutes but he’s also dribbled past 1.9 times while Salah beats an opponent, on average, 2.43 times – putting him in the top 20 across Premier League attackers.
As simple as it sounds, Liverpool’s best bet on Saturday could well be to get the ball to the electric left footer. He’s got the skill, the speed and the confidence to give Marcelo the worst 90 minutes of his career on the grandest stage of them all.