After the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic this summer, one of Paris Saint-Germain’s biggest battles this will be to hold on to Brazilian defender Marquinhos.
He is easily one of the most talented young defenders in Europe, and PSG will not give up on the defender without a fight. As per SPORT (h/t the Daily Mail) Barcelona are interested in the player and have been told that Marquinhos is keen on joining the Catalan club this summer.
However, PSG are not going to actively sell him and the player may have to request the move if he does want to force it over the line, but he's not thinking about the future until after the Copa America.
“I have my contract with PSG until 2019 but of course due to the interest from certain clubs you can see a lot of things in the media," he told a news conference ahead of Brazil’s Group B game against Haiti on Tuesday.
“I am just focused on Copa America. My situation is under discussion but my focus is here," he added.
Since moving to Europe, Marquinhos has played for Roma and the Parisians, if he was to join Luis Enrique’s side, it would finalise an incredible rise for the young defender.
This season, Marquinhos started 20 of the 29 appearances he made in Ligue 1. In a testament to his ability as a stand-up defender, he only picked up one yellow card all season. In comparison, David Luiz started just three more games but was handed four yellows in 25 appearances (link in French).
Although he is easily a respected part of PSG’s first team, he still struggles to play consistent minutes if everyone else is fit and available. Laurent Blanc was handed a lifeline when the club had to suspend Serge Aurier in January and Marquinhos was able to fill in at right-back.
He made six appearances in the Champions League, started five times as the club retained the Coupe de France—with a 4-2 win (in French) over Olympique de Marseille in the final—and then in all three games that PSG won on the way to defending their Coupe de la Ligue success (in French) against Lille.
Marquinhos started in both finals, and it was exactly what the Brazilian deserved. Despite the dominance PSG showed throughout the season, it was clear to see that the players were delighted to lift the trophies, something that was in the Brazilian's plans this season.
In an interview with Journal du Dimanche back in January (h/t talkSPORT), Marquinhos said:
Like everybody, I am always thinking about getting into the starting XI.
But you have to respect the coach's decision and that of the board. I will continue to work in order to get my place.
But it is true that there will be a moment where I want more. We can not always be used to the bench.
Six months remain to win trophies and to try to become a starter. After that, we will see what happens.
That time has passed, and now the Brazilian will have to decide if his position at the club has changed. In terms of minutes, he is still the third choice. Club captain Thiago Silva is obviously ahead of him, but it’s the position of David Luiz that throws things up in the air.
Many already believe that the younger Brazilian is the better defender, yet it’s David Luiz who will get picked more often than not. The decision is not always Laurent Blanc’s, it seems, and it also comes down to Silva’s preference.
The captain apparently feels more comfortable playing beside Luiz, and if it makes him a better player—one that is heralded as the best centre-back in Europe—who are we to argue.
One option, that could see Marquinhos play more and would also keep him happy would be for Blanc to push David Luiz up the pitch and start the younger of the three. As Thiago Motta slows down, playing the former Chelsea man as the defensive midfielder would give the club another player in midfield, without the need to sign someone new this summer.
It is likely that Marquinhos will make a decision before the season starts, not giving Blanc a chance to prove that Marquinhos has a more important role to play, and fulfil the coach’s prophecy.
Speaking back in February 2015, Blanc clearly had no desire to see his young defender leave the club.
"Marquinhos has a spirit and a special mentality,” Blanc said, per Anthony Chapman in the Express. "We have done everything to keep him and we will do everything possible to extend his contract.
"It is good that as a player he can operate in different defensive roles, and let's not forget he is just 20 years old. He and Adrien Rabiot represent the future of PSG."
It is quite obvious that this is a decision that is going to be made by the player, not the club. They are not going to let one of their best players and prospects leave without a fight.
One selling point for Barcelona would be that they can offer him a place to not just become the future of the club, but he would also be the present.
Still the most memorable performance in Marquinhos’ career, came against Barcelona. Starting the absence of Thiago Silva, he lined up beside David Luiz and was superb in helping the Parisians win the group fixture 3-2 at the Parc des Princes.
He showed everything he has in his locker that evening. He commanded his area, both in his ability to read the game and intercept danger, but also in the air, clearing everything that came his way.
Marquinhos is quick along the ground, both with and without the ball. He uses that speed to either get out and clear any trouble, but also to recover and make a well-timed tackle. Training and learning beside Thiago Silva has helped him become a fantastic one-on-one defender, someone who can stand up forwards and make himself very difficult to beat.
What you always see from Marquinhos is passion, intensity and desire—all three were on display in the closing stages of that game in 2014. Barcelona were looking to tie things up and a ball to the back post looked to have found Jordi Alba unmarked, but Marquinhos had read the situation and managed to somehow throw his leg at the ball and make a crucial block.
His celebration said everything about the player’s mentality and desire to win and help his team.
Marquinhos may not have been born with Barca DNA, but he does have everything you need to become a successful force at the Camp Nou. He is good with the ball at his feet—playing at right-back helped this side of his game develop.
There is no doubt he has the quality to bring the ball out of defence and contribute to the attack once he starts to feel at home. With the class Marquinhos possesses, you can envisage him becoming an integral part of the squad within a few months of joining the club.
The club seems to be making room for a centre-back with their recent decision to sell Marc Bartra to Borussia Dortmund. Although, according to newspaper Ole (reported by Reuters Sport via Sky Sports) Javier Mascherano has been told the club are not looking to move him on:
Barca have let me know that they have no intention of me leaving. They are very happy with me.
When the club, and even more so this club, tells you this, it is very difficult to leave. I am not going to force anything. Nobody involved deserves that.
There is always the possibility of leaving, but also of staying. I have a contract with Barcelona.
No matter what happens to Mascherano, Gerard Pique will also still be at the club, but there is space for someone like Marquinhos to come in and impress, providing back-up with Jeremy Mathieu and he could also play at right-back, just like he has at PSG.
PSG are still trying to reach the same level as Barcelona, so you feel that Marquinhos would be happier and be able to see a clearer path to the first team with the Catalan club.