‘I’m sure Guardiola was a bit scared!’ Marcelo on great European wins and his mission at Western Sydney

New Western Sydney Wanderers captain Marcelo has graced numerous European stages – now he’s aiming to be part of bringing the glory days back to Western Sydney, writes Tom Smithies.

The score currently has Marcelo on two victories and a draw, and Manchester City winless – and that tells you everything about the calibre of the new captain of Western Sydney Wanderers.

A defender who has bested Cristiano Ronaldo and Kevin De Bruyne, and who just months ago was locking horns with Neymar and Lionel Messi, is leading the on-field part of Western Sydney’s latest rebuild. No wonder Wanderers head coach Marko Rudan chose this Brazilian to lead his team.

His colleagues speak highly of him already and you can see from Western Sydney’s first three games his quality as a defender but also as an organiser, traits apparently obvious 15 years ago when he was called up for Brazil’s Under-20 squad.

Facing competition from the likes of David Luiz and the other Marcelo, he missed out on the 2007 U20 World Cup – though conspicuously the Marcelo now playing in Australia has gone on to achieve rather more than other members of the World Cup squad.

He’s an engaging interviewee too, laughing about falling out of bed in shock when PSV Eindhoven rang him to say they wanted to sign him from Wisla Krakow, the Polish club he had moved to in 2008 from Brazil, aged 21, where he had slotted straight into the first team and won the league title in his first year.

“I was really surprised by what happened in my life when I moved to Poland – in Brazil, you know, we have players that go straight to a big club in a big league in Europe, and you have the players that move to (an) average league, but have more time playing,” he told KEEPUP.

“So this was my case, my first year in Europe was really important for me because I get to know more the way how they play, and I play a lot of games. Like that you get more experience and luckily we also win (the league) that first year I was there and that gave me more confidence to continue my journey. And by the way, Krakow was a real nice city. Really loved to be there.”

Still, as he says, when a club like PSV call, the only answer is yes. “So it was a funny story because I remember I was sleeping and I receive a call, picked up my phone. And (it’s) the team manager from Eindhoven, he speaks Spanish with me, says he is from PSV Eindhoven.

Marcelo tackles Ajax’s Kolbeinn Sigthorsson while playing for PSV in 2013.

“I was like, Oh my God! And he says Okay, keep calm, we want you here with us. We’re going to do everything to bring you to PSV. Just keep calm and everything will be alright. So it was a really nice conversation first with them and I accept straightaway. We cannot reject the opportunity to play for a big club as PSV in Europe, you know?

“Also, this club has a lot of Brazilian references in the past; Ronaldo play there, Romario play there, Vampeta play there – big Brazilian players that join in Europe by playing for PSV.

“(The players) were always together you know, we had a really close group (at PSV) – all these guys they went to different directions different clubs, big clubs and that’s the beauty of football. Afterwards we met them in different leagues, different competitions, so we always keep this relationship.”

With a young Memphis Dupay as a team-mate – plus, ironically, Ola Toivonen and Orlando Engelaar, both of whom would also head to the A-Leagues eventually – Marcelo ended up making almost a century of appearances for PSV, then almost 80 for Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga.

He also won the Turkish League twice in 18 months at Besiktas but perhaps the most glamorous stint, though, was his four years at Lyon, where two Champions League runs in consecutive years – first to the quarter-finals, then the semi-finals – brought those three unbeaten games against Manchester City, and victories over Juventus, Benfica and RB Leipzig.

Marcelo battles for possession with Sergio Aguero when Lyon played Manchester City in 2018.

“That was a really special season (in 2019-20) because we were in the COVID time and we went to (play the Champions Leaguye knockout games) in the bubble in Portugal. So all the teams was in the same city and in the quarterfinal we have to face Manchester City again,” he said.

“I’m sure that (Pep) Guardiola was a little bit scared when they see they’re going to play against Lyon! But I cannot explain why we win these games but we were never scared to play against Manchester City.

“So we knew actually how to play against them, because the season before we we play against them as well. I don’t say it was easy, but we play very well. We also have little bit of luck because (Raheem) Sterling has got a chance in the end of the game but he just shoot away (from the goal).

“When I was kid I was dreaming to play these kind of games and and when you see them you are so happy that you don’t think how are you going to mark (a particular player), we just play to enjoy the game, that’s more important. We had quality in our team to beat Juventus – we have a lot of confidence ourselves as well, that’s important for the group.”

Marcelo’s four years at Lyon ended when he fell out with Dutch coach Peter Bosz after the latter’s appointment and was released. He joined Bordeaux on a short-term deal but couldn’t halt his new side’s slide towards relegation; weeks later he had traded Ligue 1 for the A-League, an apparently incongruous switch.

Marcelo challenges Nick D’Agostino of Melbourne Victory in Round 2.

“That’s football,” he shrugs. “For me, I love this game and I love to be here. I love to play football and doesn’t matter who you’re facing, who you are against, we just try to enjoy the time, enjoy the moment and that’s why I’m doing here right now.

“You know, bringing the best of Marcelo to help develop the club but also to progress us as a team as a team-mate.

“The coach gave me this challenge (of being captain) I and accepted straight away because I do believe I can bring this team together with all the experienced players we have, the highest standard. So that’s what I’m looking for.”