Marquinhos: a warrior's season
A jack-of-all-trades on the pitch and a master of them too, the Brazil international embellished his standing in and out of the Paris dressing room last season.
Some players stand out in flashes, others get forgotten over time. And then there are some whose consistency makes them stand out from the crowd, they shape the dressing room with their determination and find a place in the fans' hearts, carving out a place for themselves in their club's history. Marquinhos is one of those players.
For his seventh season in the French capital, the Brazilian has continued his upward trajectory. A central figure off the pitch, he was one on it too as he often played in midfield as well as at the heart of the backline, slipping seamlessly and just as effectively into Thomas Tuchel's strategy.
"Now, when I play in midfield, I know I can still improve in an attacking sense, especially in terms of my movement. What I already have a mastery of is the defensive side of the role, the positional aspects, covering for the full-backs or another midfielder, pressing when we lose possession," he explained in November's issue of the official club magazine.
Calmness blended with game intelligence and a determination to win both his duels and his matches, it's difficult to pick out one quality given Marquinhos manages to do it all so well and so consistently.
Leader. Passionné. Guerrier.— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_inside) October 15, 2019
Marqui 🤩 pic.twitter.com/GYBFlEu819
The fact he played more than any other defender (32 games) tells its own story, and his impact is reflected in the stats. He averages 2.4 points a game in Ligue 1, a ratio no-one who has featured in at least 100 top-flight games in France since 2010 can match. He wore the captain's armband ten times last season, leading the charge in the first competitive game of the campaign - the Trophée des Champions against Rennes - and what is for the moment the last one, the win over Dortmund.
That UEFA Champions League tie summed up everything Marquinhos gave to PSG last season. Though the first leg was lost, he sounded the revolt at the Parc des Princes, and defended stoically as the German visitors crashed wave upon wave of attack on the hosts' Brazilian rock.
But it didn't take that performance to make everyone aware of just how good he is. Tuchel nicknamed him 'Franz Beckenbauer' when the German tactician arrived in Paris, and Marquinhos lived up to his moniker, providing both silk and steel, and the odd goal. Three strikes came in 2019/20, including a brace against Bordeaux.
It was in that penultimate match of the league campaign that Marquinhos showcased all his talents, starting in midfield and then dropping back into defence. Wearing the captain's armband, he produced an inspiring display and was unsurprisingly named man of the match.
A defender by trade, he still has a marksman's eye: one goal every 1.36 shots in L1 (14 goals from 19 shots on target), that's actually the best ratio of any top-flight player who's scored at least 10 goals in the last decade.
In the Champions League, he kept his cool and mobilised the troops in the cauldron of Galatasaray. Playing behind Marco Verratti and Idrissa Gueye and just in front of Presnel Kimpembe and Thiago Silva, he helped keep out the Turkish hosts, notably clearing a Radamel Falcao header off the goalline.
But he was not only a destroyer, as he showed when the sides met again in the group stage, captaining the side and leading from the front in a 5-0 win.
"It's important to feel important. To be a cornerstone of the team is something you earn on the pitch match after match. You don't knock on the coach's door and demand status. You have to earn it, on the pitch, and I've always had that approach," the Sao Paulo-born star said.
With 278 matches (23 goals) for Paris, Marquinhos is now one of the squad's most experienced members. He has won 20 trophies, which also marks him out in the club's history, and he's done that with 93% pass completion and 68% of challenges won. In the 2019/20 Ligue 1 season, he topped the division's chart for 'aerial challenges won' with 70.
"He's one of the best defenders in the world, and right now, he's also one of the best midfielders in the world," summed up Tuchel. What better way to explain why - in January - Paris were so happy to extend 'Marqui's' contract to June 2024.