Fifteen years after he arrived at Real Madrid with a plan to succeed Roberto Carlos, Marcelo will leave the European giants as the most decorated player in the club’s history.
The 34-year-old overtook Paco Gento – whose haul included six European Cups in the 1950s and ’60s – when he won his sixth La Liga title last month, and took his tally to 25 trophies with a fifth Champions League success as the Spanish side beat Liverpool on Saturday.
“It’s an incredible emotion because it’s my last game at Real Madrid,” said Marcelo after that 1-0 victory in Paris. “Leaving with a Champions League is a huge joy. It isn’t a sad day.”
Despite not featuring in the final, Marcelo was animated on the touchline as Real closed out a 14th European Cup triumph and then lifted the trophy, before also leading the celebrations at the Plaza de Cibeles on Sunday.
The left-back draped a flag and a scarf over the goddess at the fountain of Cybele, where Real traditionally celebrate titles with their fans, before hoisting the trophy aloft in front of thousands of supporters.
“It is a wonderful moment in my life. I close a cycle here, in the best club in the world,” added Marcelo, who said he dreamed of lifting the trophy after replacing Sergio Ramos as captain this season.
“Today is not a day of sadness, but a day of joy because we have once again won the best championship in the world. I am very proud of myself and so is my family. We have lived many magical nights together.
“I tell you one thing, the future of Madrid is very good with the young players. Hala Madrid!”
Marcelo ‘The Legend’
Former president Ramon Calderon described Marcelo as a “pearl that half of Europe wanted” when Real Madrid convinced the 19-year-old to join them from Fluminense in January 2007, adding he was ready to step in whenever Roberto Carlos moved on.
The explosive Brazilian had been the team’s first-choice left-back for a decade and was someone Marcelo considered an idol. “To me, he was God”, said the protege.
“To come into the same team as him and the same position, I couldn’t believe it.”
On his first day in Madrid, Marcelo recalls the senior player walking over to him, handing him his phone number and saying:
“You need anything, call me.”
Roberto Carlos left for Fenerbahce that summer, and has since claimed Marcelo became a better player than he was.
Indeed, he went on to make more than 500 appearances for Real – mostly as an attacking left-back but also as a winger – winning not just La Liga and the Champions League repeatedly, but four Club World Cups, three European Super Cups, five Spanish Super Cups and the Copa del Rey twice.
He earned praise not just from compatriot and former team-mate Roberto Carlos, but also legendary AC Milan and Italy left-back Paolo Maldini.
And while Marcelo’s game time decreased over his final few seasons – he played 18 times in all competitions this season – former Real Madrid defender Fernando Hierro said the skipper remained an important influence on the team.
“It is true Marcelo is a player that was going to replace Roberto Carlos, no less, which wasn’t easy,” explained Hierro. “And of course today he is the most celebrated player of Real Madrid.
“Marcelo is always a very special player. He brings a lot of joy, creativity to the game and is a very nice player to watch – and he is a nice guy as well, very friendly and a lovely person.
I am really glad he is the most decorated player in the history of the club.”
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti has described Marcelo as “a legend and my friend” – and the defender suggested it might not be the last time he is seen at the Bernabeu.
“I have to do something with this club. So, I will come back,” said Marcelo.
“I have some football left, but then I will come back – I will come back to Real Madrid one day.”