Real Madrid outcast Marcelo looked like a man reborn as a midfielder against Getafe


Real Madrid outcast Marcelo looked like a man reborn against Getafe with his foray into midfield showing he still has plenty more to give… now free of his defensive shackles, the Brazilian can emulate Dani Alves and add many more years to his career

  • Marcelo was played as a wide midfielder in Real Madrid’s win over Getafe
  • The Brazilian, who is a left back by trade, put in his best performances in years
  • He had no defensive responsibilities and was given license to roam forward
  • The change in role and position could put the brakes on the 32-year-old’s demise
  • Marcelo can now follow Dani Alves’ example and change his game to stay on top 
  • He is out injured for three weeks but will then hope to return to the starting XI 

When the UEFA Champions League’s official Twitter account asked who was better, Dani Alves or Marcelo, on February 4, it probably didn’t expect both players to answer and for both to tweet for the other player.

There’s clearly a mutual appreciation society between the pair and there is maybe a lesson for Marcelo in the final years of Alves’ career – become a different player to add extra seasons to your sporting life. 

Marcelo the midfielder looked like a man born again for Real Madrid in Tuesday’s win over Getafe; the change in role and position could put the brakes on the 32-year-old’s demise.

Marcelo had one of his best games in years, playing as a midfielder in Real's win over Getafe

Marcelo had one of his best games in years, playing as a midfielder in Real’s win over Getafe

He limped off late on and now has a calf strain but once back in the fold in a few weeks’ time he won’t mind stepping back into the position he filled on Tuesday. There was a freedom to roam and much less defensive responsibility so it’s made for him to thrive.

The precedent is there with his compatriot. When Dani Alves moved to Juventus in the 2016-17 season he eventually moved away from the right back position he had played all his career. 

Massimiliano Allegri played with a back three and Alves prospered wide right of a midfield four with Andrea Barzagli behind him as the right-sided defender.

Barcelona had allowed him to move to the Italian side because they sensed he had very little left to give at the highest level but he proved them wrong going all the way to the Champions League final in that next season in his new advanced role.

The Brazilian veteran set up his successor, Ferland Mendy, to second Real's second on Tuesday

The Brazilian veteran set up his successor, Ferland Mendy, to second Real’s second on Tuesday

Dani Alves was allowed to leave Barcelona after they sensed that he had very little left to give at the highest level

However, Alves proved the Catalan giants wrong and moved further up the pitch to prolong his career

Marcelo’s transformation could add more years to his career just like Dani Alves has done

A year later when he moved to Paris Saint-Germain, he returned to right back but there were some appearances in midfield and now aged 37 at Sao Paolo he’s got the No 10 on his back and he is very much the team’s playmaker in the middle of the park.

Back at the Alfredo Di Stefano on Tuesday and Marcelo played wide of a midfield four and he was the home side’s best player. 

With Ferland Mendy doing for him as Barzagli had done for Alves at Juventus he was free, not just to advance down the left from where he crossed for the second goal but also to drift in-field where he ended up dictating play for long spells.

Marcelo has always been a special player for Madrid in the last third but at his peak he had the engine to get back and defend as the left back in a four. 

It also made sense for him to be arriving from deep because it made his forward forays so much more difficult for other sides to deal with.

After leaving Barcelona, Alves was moved further up the pitch from right back into midfield, which saw him prosper in a new 3-4-3 system and win titles with Juventus and PSG

After leaving Barcelona, Alves was moved further up the pitch from right back into midfield, which saw him prosper in a new 3-4-3 system and win titles with Juventus and PSG

But now that he no longer has quite the same burst, nor the durability to make the runs back into defence, it makes sense that he plays with the security blanket of a defender behind him.

In his 86 minutes against Getafe he played 76 passes with an 85 per cent success rate. And 41 of the successful passes were in the opponent’s half.

Having not started a league game since the end of last September it was perhaps no surprise that he did not last the 90 minutes. But the shoots of a new spring were there.

The only surprise is that the change has not taken place before. 

Marcelo didn't last the full 90 vs Getafe but showed enough to warrant a spot in the starting XI

Marcelo didn’t last the full 90 vs Getafe but showed enough to warrant a spot in the starting XI

The change in role and position could put the brakes on the 32-year-old’s demise

The change in role and position could put the brakes on the 32-year-old’s demise

Marcelo’s defensive shortcomings have been laid bare time and again over the last two and a half seasons but you can’t scrap the third-highest appearance maker born outside of Spain in the club’s history – he still has Roberto Carlos and Karim Benzema ahead of him – and a little imagination has come up with a solution.

It’s been a long time since he has been in the headlines for the right reasons and Madrid went into Tuesday night’s game knowing in their previous eight matches with Marcelo in the starting line-up they had only won two – but the positive headlines were for him this time with El Pais declaring it his best game for Madrid in years.

He might not hold down a place in the engine room at Madrid in the long-term but as clubs look to take him with one year left on his contract in the summer the reminder of what a great footballer he is, before position is even considered, is timely.