Marcelo nearing the end at Real Madrid
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Just a year ago, it seemed almost unthinkable, absolutely absurd for Real Madrid to play a game without Marcelo. The Brazilian was indisputable. His place in Los Blancos' starting eleven was assured. Not anymore, however. Marcelo on the bench has become an often sight since the year flipped.
El Derby is the grand stage. It ranks among the best gathering of Madristas. Only the Madrid Carnival could boast of better cult-followership. Given their geographical proximity, Madrid’s biggest two teams have histories that run so close to one another.
The dual annual meetings are keenly anticipated. The animosity, tension and atmosphere are intense. Several players left a lasting impression in recent time. None better than top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo and serial cohort Marcelo. The thoughts of a Madrid derby without the pair appeared odd.
It was no surprise the first meeting since the Portuguese superstar's departure to Juventus was dour. Marcelo's muscle injury lessened the glamour too. Both sides settled for a boring goalless stalemate. The last time this happened was in 2004. Ronaldo only just moved to Manchester United. Marcelo, meanwhile, was still a toddler, in Fluminense.
Fast forward to the second leg on Saturday. A fully-fit Marcelo was nowhere near Santiago Solari's lineup. The boss preferred 22-year-old academy graduate Sergio Reguilon. So was the case in the last four league games, against Real Betis, Sevilla, Espanyol and Deportivo. Marcelo hasn't started in La Liga since the 2-0 defeat to Real Sociedad on January 6.
The latest snub typifies his sudden fall from grace. A glittering decade marauding the left-hand side of Blancos' defence could be nearing an end. It's a sad reality, the Brazilian isn't the same player that commanded the El Derby and other fixtures over the years.
Marcelo's physical condition has deteriorated. He looks a little heavy. There are suggestions that he has added as much as seven kilos (15 pounds). That's the dividends for prolonged absence due to injury. He missed 10 games with various muscle problems.
The stats show that Marcelo is going into fewer tackles than before and winning fewer, too; even simpler stats show that he has started just 11 league games this season. Only two of them have come since the turn of the year. He was fingered for both goals in the 2-0 defeat against Real Sociedad. That day, he was withdrawn after 77 minutes.
Overall, Marcelo has been culpable for six goals already this term. The 30-year-old was targeted in the Copa del Rey stalemate with Barcelona. His old defensive frailties, lapses of concentration resurfaced: He was at fault for Malcolm's equaliser. Marca gave a brutal assessment of his performance.
Marcelo's woes are Reguilon's gain, however. The youngster's status is growing. He has made the position his to lose with 14 appearances. With Reguilon, Real Madrid has recovered the lost balance caused by Marcelo. He is an insurance policy in snuffing out opponents who have dared to strive for success in his area of the field.
There's still ample time for Marcelo to find his form, though. His current contract expires in 2022. Solari has left a door open for Marcelo unlike his frosty treatment of Isco. Juventus have reportedly offered to link him up with Ronaldo. The choice is Marcelo's.