MADRID (AP) Marcelo was still in his teens when he arrived at Real Madrid with the difficult task of replacing one of his boyhood idols, Roberto Carlos.
It didn’t take long for him to rise to the challenge.
On Saturday, Marcelo will have a chance to emulate Roberto Carlos’ feat of winning three Champions League titles.
“It’s priceless to be playing again in a Champion League final,” said Marcelo, who will face Juventus on Saturday in Cardiff. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Nearly 11 years after joining Madrid from Brazilian club Fluminense as an 18-year-old promising youngster, Marcelo has become a defensive star just like Roberto Carlos, who won his Champions League titles in 1998, 2000 and 2002.
One of the team’s captains, Marcelo will be trying to win his third European title in four seasons. He scored a goal in extra time when Madrid defeated crosstown rival Atletico Madrid in the 2014 final, and converted a penalty kick in last year’s decisive shootout, also against Atletico.
Marcelo and Roberto Carlos are the foreign players with the most ever appearances for Real Madrid. Marcelo will be playing in his 408th match on Saturday, while Roberto Carlos ended his 11-year stint at the club with 527.
Roberto Carlos left Madrid shortly after Marcelo arrived, but the two remained friends and stayed in contact since then. Roberto Carlos works for the club and still lives in the Spanish capital.
“To come to a place where your idol is playing and have him welcome you so warmly, knowing that you play in his position, that’s rare in soccer,” Marcelo said. “I came here to be his successor and he treated me and my family as if we were his own. He gave us his number and told us to call him if we needed anything.”
Earlier this year, Marcelo surpassed Roberto Carlos as the foreign-born player with most Spanish league wins with Madrid.
The 44-year-old Roberto Carlos has repeatedly praised his successor, calling him the world’s best full back.
The former great thrived with a very different style compared to Marcelo, relying mostly on his physical strength and incredible long-range shots.
The 29-year-old Marcelo has excelled with his skillful footwork and precise crosses, looking more like a playmaker than a defensive player.
Marcelo was one of the team’s leaders in assists this season, and his performances were good enough to earn him a place in Brazil’s national team under coach Tite.
Marcelo won a bronze medal with Brazil at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but was left out of the 2010 World Cup squad coached by Dunga. He was a starter in Brazil’s 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup.
Roberto Carlos won the 2002 World Cup under coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Marcelo will be facing another Brazilian on Saturday, right back Dani Alves, who has thrived since joining Juventus from Barcelona last season. The Brazil teammates will be on the same side of the field and are expected to be constantly going against each other.
“I know that Dani Alves is a very good player and I always enjoying playing against him,” Marcelo said. “It’s going to be a great match.”