20 Defender Paris Saint Germain Brazil
2014 has been...
A large bucket of ointment invaded by a belligerent fly with Luiz Felipe Scolari’s face. Marquinhos, a young man now feted for celebrating blocking an Andres Iniesta shot like he’d scored a goal, missed out on the World Cup in his native Brazil, and, despite his modest years, a few eyebrows were raised at the time. A number of Scolari’s omissions were questioned and various criticisms later ratified by Brazil’s embarrassing exit.
Marcos Aoás Corrêa was born in São Paulo with dual Portuguese nationality and made his name as a Corinthians wunderkind. When it came to spend some time in the first time it was a very brief spell indeed; Marquinhos made just six senior appearances in the league before being signed by AS Roma in Serie A.
After an impressive year in the Italian capital his reputation was set. Marquinhos was one of the world’s most in-demand young defenders and one of those players that always pops up in conversations about the next big thing. Someone, it was clear by the summer of 2013, was going to pay handsomely for his services.
Someone was going to pay €31m, to be precise, and it was the offshore Brazilian defenders’ enclave of Paris Saint-Germain who saw fit to part with the thick end of 25 million quid for a teenager. He’s had to bide his time at Parc des Princes, where he was back-up to compatriots Thiago Silva and the now-departed Alex in 2013/14.
Despite PSG’s suspiciously expensive acquisition of David Luiz – Brazilian, obviously – prior to the World Cup, it was the youngster who was really carving out a solid partnership with Silva in the centre of the PSG defence this season before a thigh injury put a dent in his progress in October.
In terms of style, Marquinhos is exactly the player his international skipper needs alongside him. Though no artless brute himself, Silva is a defender who likes to throw his physicality around, to get stuck in, to lead by forceful example. By contrast Marquinhos is a reader of the game, a composed, studious and elegant caretaker at the base of PSG’s adventure.
The Parisian club’s president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, told media in September that he turned down a €40m bid from Barcelona for Marquinhos. Manchester United, who, like Barcelona, were beaten to his signature a year previously, watched him again as he won 2014’s Toulon Tournament with Brazil, and here’s why: he’s got the makings of a top class centre back and he’s his own biggest critic.
He does dive in dangerously at times and can be a little scruffy and hesitant when defending set pieces. He’s also unable to calculate and execute an adequate clearance on occasion, but we’re splitting hairs. His positioning is good, he reads danger extraordinarily well and is very, very fast across the ground to clear up behind his colleagues.
Marquinhos’ tackling shows excellent technique and very good timing, and, while Silva takes on the more physical challenges like handling big target men, Marquinhos will press high and keep the other forwards from having an easy ride around the fringes of the titanic battle at the centre of it all.
On the ball, the amount of space he usually finds himself in allows him to look nerveless and unhurried. He keeps it simple; in our year-long assessment we can’t be certain we’ve ever seen him lift a pass off the turf. Instead, he links well with Marco Verratti in front of him and Silva alongside him, and simply pushes forward into space to pick up a return.
Marquinhos is elegance and class, blended and bottled. The intermittent lapses won’t be there for long.
When a player of Marquinhos’ obvious potential forces the hand of his coach it can be something of a dilemma. PSG are blessed with an extremely valuable defence with some strength in depth, assuming they retain any faith whatsoever in Luiz. Marquinhos challenge at club level is to make that second centre back spot his own.
With his best years ahead of him and in an age of rotation, it’s unlikely to happen for a while. That’s probably for the best for the player as well, though it might make for an interesting decision for him or his club in years to come.
PSG in totality face an enormous challenge to which Marquinhos must contribute significantly. Their financial firepower has already allowed them to quickly dominate Ligue 1, taking the title in 2012/13 and in 2013/14 on the strength of rather a tidy sum of money being put into the team. Sooner rather than later they will be expected to challenge annually for the Champions League and that’s another matter altogether.
On a more personal level Marquinhos will want to make himself indispensible to Brazil coach Dunga. He played at Under-17 and Under-20 level for Brazil and was given his senior debut by Scolari a year ago, but has played just three times for the national team. More caps will inevitably follow, but it’s an obstacle the young defender will be keen to pass in short order.
"PSG's stand out player of the new season. So commanding, intelligent and impressive for someone so young. Showing no weaknesses, hard for Blanc to leave him out." - Andrew Gibney
"PSG have lost just two of the 30 league matches that Marquinhos has played in, winning 21." - OptaJoe
C+ The perfect foil for his club and country mentor
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