Marcelo Antônio Guedes Filho is a tall, solid, Brazilian centre-back who arrived at Lyon in July 2017 aged 30, having spent the previous decade traversing Europe with spells at major clubs in Poland, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey, picking up several major trophies along the way.
Following in the footsteps of a long line of accomplished Brazilian centre-backs at OL such as Edmilson, Caçapa and Cris, he slotted comfortably into the back four, initially alongside Jeremy Morel, and soon became a mainstay of the defence. He even contributed five goals in all competitions during his first season as Lyon finished third in Ligue 1.
The 2018-19 campaign brought another third place finish for Lyon as Marcelo began to form a dependable partnership with Jason Denayer in the heart of defence. Calm, unflappable, comfortable on the ball and dominant in the air, Marcelo has proved to be an excellent signing and good value for his €6.5 million transfer fee.
Now well into his thirties, pace is no longer one of his assets, but his vast experience and positional nouse more than compensate for a lack of speed. My only real quibble with his game in recent seasons has been an over-propensity to attempt long diagonal Hollywood passes that too often end up going into touch.
However, the 2019-20 season was to become a particularly turbulent one in the life of Marcelo. A group of supporters from the Bad Gones ultra group were on his back for a handful of perceived mistakes during matches and it came to a head at Lisbon airport after a 2-1 Champions League defeat to Benfica in which a howler from goalkeeper Anthony Lopes had handed the hosts a late winner.
Marcelo confronted the group at the airport and the fallout from the ensuing incident rumbled on for the next few months both on and off the pitch. For the Bad Gones, the player had broken an unwritten code and shown a lack of respect to the travelling fans and the huge sacrifices they make to follow the team. His name became mud, they called for him to be sold in the January transfer window, whistled him on the pitch and barracked him and his wife online.
Marcelo was used sparingly by coach Rudi Garcia during that period to shield him from the abuse, but was crucially supported by his teammates and the club president and many of the more moderate Lyon supporters who recognised his value to the team. Fan-player relations reached a nadir at the end of the final Champions League group game against RB Leipzig when what should have been celebrations for reaching the knockout phase turned into ugly scenes as captain Memphis Depay forcibly removed a banner depicting Marcelo as a donkey from fans in the Bad Gones end.
There seemed to be no way back for Marcelo at the club but the situation did gradually diffuse over time and he started to turn things around and win over the supporters with a series of fine performances in the new year, particularly in the run to the Champions League semi-finals where he was part of a resolute back three alongside Denayer and fellow Brazilian Marçal.
He may never be a firm favourite with the Bad Gones, but most can now grudgingly accept that the team would be much worse off without him and he’s once again a key player as the new season commences.
Marcelo was born in São Vicente on the coast of São Paulo state in Brazil and began his career at neighbouring Santos, with whom he won the Campeonato Paulista in 2007 as well as finishing runner up in Serie A. Out of contract, he then joined Wisła Kraków in Poland and won the Ekstraklasa (league championship) in his first season.
His first big money move came in summer 2010 when he joined PSV for £3.42 million. He spent three seasons as a regular at PSV, winning the Dutch Cup in 2012 and the super cup the following season as well as finishing as runners up in the Eredivisie. Hannover paid £2.48 million for his services in summer 2013 and he had a couple of seasons of mid-table mediocrity at the German club before jumping ship during their disastrous 2015-16 campaign, which culminated in relegation.
Beşiktaş took him to Turkey in February 2016, initially on loan and then permanently for a fee of £1.8 million later that year. His one and a half seasons in the Turkish capital were an unequivocal success, with two Süper Lig titles captured and his personal stock soared, prompting Lyon to make their move for his signature.
Despite a clutch of appearances at Under 20 level, full international recognition for Brazil has eluded him and, whilst he can’t have been far off national squad selection at times in his career, it looks unlikely to come his way at this late stage. Nevertheless, he should still have a few years at the top level of the club game left in him.