On March 4th 2007, at roughly 7.40pm, Fabio Capello turned to his bench.
With his Real Madrid side drawing 1-1 against Getafe in front of 74,000 expectant supporters at the Bernabeu, and only two minutes left to snatch three points, it was time to gamble.
Sevilla’s top-of-the-table win against Barcelona the previous day extended the Andalusian’s lead at the summit of La Liga, while a Fernando Morientes goal had moved Valencia above Madrid into third place.
Antonio Cassano, the enigmatic Italian with a PHD in pastries, and industrious academy graduate Ruben De La Red had already been called from Madrid’s bench, so Capello was lacking for options.
Michel Salgado, Raul Bravo and Alvaro Mejia weren’t going to trouble Getafe’s rugged 4-5-1 formation, leaving just one alternative.
Off trotted Gonzalo Higuain, who’d toiled in an unfamiliar role on the right of Madrid’s attack in support of Ruud van Nistelrooy, and on came a 18-year-old Brazilian named Marcelo Vieira da Silva Junior.
The youngster, who had arrived from Brazilian side Fluminense in the January transfer window, had experienced an inauspicious start to life as a Madrid player.
A debut defeat against Deportivo La Coruna was followed by a run of five games left out of the matchday squad. His return to action contributed to consecutive draws against Real Betis and Atletico Madrid, so he’d proved to be anything but a lucky charm, let alone a Galactico-in-waiting.
And yet, with Capello desperate searching for three points to keep Madrid’s fading title bid alive, he turned to the Brazilian.
This is probably where you’re expecting Marcelo to bag a 93rd-minute winner and ignite his Madrid career. But he didn’t. The last two minutes petered out without incident, leaving Madrid six points adrift of Sevilla at the top of La Liga.
So why have you been forced to sit through 300 words about a nondescript 1-1 draw against Getafe thirteen years ago? Because those two minutes of Marcelo’s fourth Madrid appearance mark the only time he shared a pitch with Roberto Carlos.
Never has a baton been passed so smoothly from one of the world’s best in his position to another, and yet these two minutes mark the only occasion in which the master and apprenticeship actually bore fruit on the field.
Their paths never crossed at international level, with Carlos quitting after Brazil’s 2006 World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of France and Marcelo’s first cap not coming until three months later in a 2-0 win against Wales.
Despite overlapping at Madrid for five months before the elder statesman moved to Fenerbahce, the Getafe game was the only time Marcelo and Carlos were even included in the same squad.
There was no direct substitution to mark the changing of the guard. Carlos played the full 90 minutes in all but three of his 23 La Liga appearances during his last campaign at the Bernabeu, with Raul Bravo, Miguel Torres and Cicinho the three players involved in those substitutions.
Instead, there were two minutes against Getafe. Two minutes in which the two best left-backs of the last two decades were on the same team. That the two best left-backs of their generation even briefly shared a pitch for Madrid is something of a freak occurrence.
Marcelo made a further two appearances that season, again replacing Higuain against Gimnastic de Tarragona before starting in a 2-1 loss to Racing Santander, after which he wasn’t used again by Capello.
The transition wasn’t perfect by any means, with Marcelo having to wait another three seasons of featuring heavily as a winger until the appointment of Jose Mourinho saw him blossom into the natural heir to Carlos.
But Madrid couldn’t have cloned a more perfect replacement if Dolly the sheep had laced up a pair of football boots. If Ferland Mendy is half as successful succeeding Marcelo as the Brazilian was in following on from Carlos then Madrid will have won the lottery once again.
As for those five months in which Marcelo and Carlos were team-mates, an unlikely revival sparked by a run of just one loss in 13 games saw Madrid crowned La Liga champions on the final day of the season.
Both Madrid and Barcelona finished the season level on 76 points, so that draw against Getafe was far from futile after all.
READ MORE FROM THE WORLD OF DREAM TEAM:
- Phil Foden named in England’s starting line-up for Euro 2021 opener
- Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira very nearly formed the world’s most unlikely midfield partnership
- It’s time for Philippe Coutinho to follow in Juan Roman Riquelme’s footsteps