Marcelo’s importance to the Real Madrid machine cannot be underestimated | Sid Lowe

The Brazilian full-back arrived at the Bernabéu as a 19-year-old but a decade later he is one of the most consistent players at Zinedine Zidane’s disposal

For the second time in six days, the final whistle brought Marcelo Vieira to his knees, but this time his body didn’t slump forward face first, fists beating the floor; this time his body arched back and his arms were raised to the sky, like the poster from Platoon. After the clasico late last Sunday night, Real Madrid’s left-back took responsibility for how it had ended; after their match with Valencia early on Saturday evening, he didn’t – even though this time it actually was his doing. “We all fought, we all ran,” he said, wide-eyed and wiping sweat from his head, the shouting and celebrating surrounding him at the Santiago Bernabéu yet to subside.

Ran? He had run wild. Marcelo took the blame for losing to Barcelona, sadly admitting he should have fouled Sergi Roberto just as Cristiano Ronaldo had implored, as if it that was quite so easy or quite so obvious. Now, a week on, he rescued them. With eight minutes left, former Madrid youth teamer Dani Parejo curled the perfect free-kick over a tall, leaping wall and into the top corner to put Valencia level. The game had been drifting, Zinedine Zidane admitting to “anxiety”, but Madrid had led. Now, lead gone, they risked the league doing likewise. With four games to go, three for Barcelona, Madrid would probably have to beat Granada, Sevilla, Celta and Málaga or wait even longer for a title that had already evaded them for five years.

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