No one grows up wanting to be a right-back, or a left-back for that matter. Actually, that’s not true in Brazil.
From Djalma Santos and Carlos Alberto to Roberto Carlos and Cafu, Brazil’s footballing history is rich with men that defied what it meant to be a defender by making a mockery of the attackers they were supposed to be containing.
Dani Alves and Marcelo have been continuing this proud tradition since the late ’00s but, aged 35 and 30 respectively, now find themselves battling against the notoriously impatient sands of time.
With Alves competing against Thilo Kehrer and Thomas Meunier for playing time in Paris while Marcelo ruled the roost in Madrid, there seemed to be only one evergreen Brazilian full-back in decline at the start of the season.
Fast forward to the present day and that prophecy rings true. However it’s Marcelo, not Alves, that finds himself in a battle to remain relevant.
Marcelo has started Madrid’s last three La Liga games on the bench, with Santiago Solari preferring academy graduate Sergio Reguilon at left-back.
Madrid games are undoubtedly more boring without Marcelo’s relentless raids down the left, but Solari clearly enjoys the stability Reguilon brings to his side.
Marcelo’s last start- a 2-0 home loss to Real Sociedad in which he was booked before being hauled off for the 22-year-old- seemed significant.
His case isn’t helped by niggling injuries and the fact that Madrid have won all three games since making the switch, although that’s to be expected when you play for Los Blancos.
In fairness to Marcelo, he doesn’t appear to be sulking, which can’t be said for some of his team-mates *cough* Isco *cough*.
It was illuminating when Solari used a press conference to laud: “His love for the club and his commitment to the club and his joy at training are undoubted, and his behaviour is impeccable. All these things must be praised.”
Managerial statements have been telling for Alves as well. Thomas Tuchel wasn’t joking when he said: “Alves can play defence, middle, attack, you just need to tell him two hours before the game.”
Alves lined up in the heart of midfield against Amiens, Guingamp and Rennes- games PSG won with an aggregate scoreline of 16-1.
Swiss Brazilian Army Knife is the first player in PSG’s history to operate as a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward at some point over the course of a season.
If PSG fans aren’t already singing about ‘a team of Dani Alves’ then they’re missing a trick.
Marco Verratti’s ankle injury will likely give Alves more time to impress in the middle of the park, although Tuchel has dug into PSG’s substantial war chest to sign Leandro Paredes from Zenit St Petersburg.
As for Marcelo, the appeal of a long-mooted move to Juventus will increase the longer he finds himself resigned to Madrid’s bench.
Time waits for no man, not even legendary Brazilian full-backs.
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