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Marquinhos: The Rise and Rise of PSG's Defensive 'Kaiser'

Marcus AlvesFeatured Columnist IMarch 5, 2019

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Marquinhos of PSG celebrates the victory following the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Manchester United (Man U) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Old Trafford stadium on February 12, 2019 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

At first glance, the Golwin YouTube channel looks pretty nondescript. With only 218 subscribers and most videos getting fewer than a 1,000 views, it would be an easy one to miss.

A little digging, however, reveals that it was created by a sports marketing company launched in the second half of 2010 and registered under the name of Riama Aoas in Brazil. The channel was part of a small business set up by her father Marcos Aoas, to produce clips of youth football matches, notably those from Corinthians.

The operation worked more or less like this: Marcos himself would film the games; Riama would edit the clips, pick some random soundtrack and then convert them into DVDs; then her brother Luan Aoas, once a promising footballer who featured for Corinthians and Sao Paulo, would sell them around the training ground to other parents for R$30 (£6).

Besides raising some money, it allowed them to keep a close eye on the baby boy of the family, Marquinhos, who was starting his career as a centre-back.

A few months after setting up the channel, the group got to film a match between Corinthians and Barcelona in an under-17 tournament called Future Champions.

That Barcelona side had the likes of Gerard Deulofeu and Mauro Icardi in their ranks, but on the day they were thrashed 4-0 by the Brazilians. Corinthians' win was sealed by Marquinhos with surely the most incredible goal of his career. Spotting the 'keeper off his line, the now-established PSG and Brazil centre-half, took a free-kick from deep inside his own half that sailed into the back of the net.

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Not surprisingly, it was a rare hit for Golwin, with over 13,000 views on YouTube (the goal comes at 57 seconds of the video above).

At the same competition held in December 2010 in Belo Horizonte, Marquinhos shone against PSG and his current colleague Adrien Rabiot and was also impressive vs. Everton.

His displays earned him an immediate debut call-up for Brazil's U17 side.

It was the first step of a meteoric rise for the teenager known as Mocote by his family and friends in Brazil.

Since then, he has gone from the Future Champions to the UEFA Champions League, establishing himself as vice-captain of PSG and being named as man of the match in the French side's impressive 2-0 win first-leg win over Manchester United at Old Trafford two weeks ago. Marquinhos nullified Paul Pogba throughout the game, and the Frenchman's frustration spilled over in the final minute when he was sent off for a second yellow card after fouling Dani Alves. 

Marquinhos can now guide the Parisiens into the quarter-finals for the first time in three seasons on Wednesday when the second leg takes place.

Marquinhos made life hard for Pogba in the first leg.
Marquinhos made life hard for Pogba in the first leg.Dave Thompson/Associated Press/Associated Press

PSG's boss Thomas Tuchel recently described him as "incredible," his team-mates trust him as their representative with the board, he's earned the local media's respect after doing his first interview in French within three months of his arrival, and he even acts as the spokesperson for fellow compatriot Neymar in disputes with the club's ultras.

His parents may still call him Mocote, but inside the dressing room, Marquinhos has become known as Kaiser Franz, a reference to German legend Franz Beckenbauer.

While that may seem like hyperbole, Marquinhos has come a long way since scoring that screamer against Barcelona. It says a lot about him that most of the people can't believe he's still only 24.

"Whenever I'm invited for a lecture, that exhibition against Barcelona is the one I enjoy talking about," Rodrigo Leitao, who was at the helm of that Corinthians side, tells Bleacher Report, laughing.

"Marquinhos was spectacular that day—not only defensively, but also running things on the pitch. That was my first trip with that team. I had been in charge for 15 days and was still getting to know him. As a leader, encouraging his colleagues and guiding them, he really impressed me.

"Brazil U17 boss, Emerson [Avila], was around in the stands and after watching our match with Everton, he came to me asking about him."

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Marquinhos of Brazil during the International Friendly match between Brazil and Cameroon at Stadium mk on November 20, 2018 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

It wasn't even necessary for Leitao to convince Avila much about bringing in his protege. Marquinhos had already done enough talking on the pitch with his performance.

"Everton had some strong strikers and sent a lot of balls into the box but weren't able to beat Marquinhos in the air, not even once. He was splendid in that match," Avila recalls to B/R.

"He's technically gifted, reads the game better than more experienced defenders and always arrives to the ball one second before strikers. In a way, he can be described as the master of the interception.

"Off the field, he's also a great guy and always cheerful. I had no doubt about giving him the captain's armband."

As Tuchel has found out, Marquinhos is the sort of player a coach can always rely on.

Sources close to the centre-back told B/R he's not happy playing as a defensive midfielder. Yet despite that, he's accepted the more advanced role to help the team. After struggling to settle into the position at the beginning of the season, he seems more comfortable now, as Pogba might be able to attest.

At Old Trafford, the Frenchman was left so frustrated with the Brazilian's man-marking that he cracked and was sent off after a second booking just before the final whistle.

In private conversations, Marquinhos has explained to Tuchel that despite his recent displays, making a permanent switch to the central midfield is not in his plans.

He wants to move back to the defence as soon possible, otherwise it risks becoming an issue for PSG in the summer transfer window. United and Barcelona are among the sides that have made official enquiries for him.

Perhaps others would have complained in public about the situation, or even tried to force a move. However, that is not in Marquinhos' character.

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 28: Coach of PSG Thomas Tuchel, Marquinhos of PSG during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Liverpool FC at Parc des Princes stadium on November 28, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

"He has always been a centre-back and sometimes a right-back, but if the coach needs him to do another role, he will do everything to please him. He's out of this world as a person. Despite being so young, he's already second captain of the team," Moreno Aoas, his cousin and a former left-back who featured for the likes of Corinthians, Botafogo and Udinese, tells B/R.

"He makes friends with everyone. As we say back home, he's very 'bonzinho' [nice] and charismatic.

"If we compare him to Neymar, they're both very different but still found a way to become best pals, really close and are always hanging out together."

It's safe to say that Marquinhos' success is partly due to the lessons his parents learned from his elder-brother Luan and cousin Moreno's experiences in football.

Despite being highly-rated, none of them reached the same level as the PSG defender.

Four years older, Luan was originally touted as the brightest gem of the family. The right-footed playmaker, however, couldn't live up to the expectations and decided to retire at the age of 20 after frustrating spells in Spain and Belgium. He returned home to help his sibling and is now a member of his entourage in Paris.

Moreno, meanwhile, starred for Brazil's youth teams and even played in the same back line as Daniel Alves. He once heard former PSV, Inter Milan and PSG midfielder Vampeta, a 2002 World Cup winner, saying he was the left-back of the future.

For multiple reasons, that future never arrived for him.

He was still able, though, to build a modest career and help out his relatives financially, including Marquinhos.

"I was the first professional footballer of our family, so it was obviously a bit complicated to start, you ended up being the guinea pig. I had to go through situations that I made sure did not happen to Marquinhos. I ended up moving between clubs more often than I should have—it's a mistake that we don't want to happen to him. I also had seven different agents," Moreno says.

"But if I'm being honest, I must admit I didn't put much faith in Marquinhos; I was convinced Luan was the one. He had always been an ace. But for life's reasons, he didn't succeed.

"Our family now lives around Marquinhos."

Moreno says it is his cousin's personality that has allowed him to go so far, so fast. And that he is helping his family grow with him.

"He's a very good player and an even better person. He gives everyone a chance to become something. It's just a matter of making the best out of it. For example, my brother has been taking French lessons for three to four months before moving to Paris to start work as manager of a barber shop we have there.

"He has become an icon at PSG and represents the team whenever the ultras and the board want to talk to them. Everyone loves him."

The No. 5's form has also erased concerns regarding his lack of stature. At 6'0", he's on the small side for a centre-half, and his physique led to people doubting his potential in the past.

When Corinthians sent him to Roma in 2012, initially on loan, Mario Gobbi, the then-president of the club, justified the move by saying the Corinthians coaching team had advised him to ship the player out.

According to him, they claimed Marquinhos was "too skinny," "would take three years more to grow up" and would never feature as a centre-back in Europe.

Back then, as fate would have it, the man in charge of the Sao Paulo-based side was Tite, Brazil's current boss.

The €3 million permanent deal that was eventually struck with Roma is still rated as one of the worst in Corinthians history. One season later, he signed by PSG for €32 million.

At the Parc des Princes, he was welcomed by former Brazil international Alex, who also represented Chelsea, Milan and PSV in his playing career.

"We had the same agent [Giuliano Bertolucci] and met for a lunch in his first day in Paris. He's a nice boy, always willing to learn and perhaps most importantly, had the patience to wait for his chance when he still had David Luiz and Thiago Silva ahead of him," Alex tells B/R.

"He has no weakness—not even in aerial challenges.

"He makes up for his height with an abundance of smarts to anticipate strikers and win these duels. He's very intelligent."

Would being taller have made much difference for Marquinhos? The consensus seems to be no.

Marquinhos with good friend Neymar
Marquinhos with good friend NeymarKARIM JAAFAR/Getty Images

"I don't think so. He's way better than defenders who are possibly five or even seven centimetres taller than him," Avila says.

"When I look to the pitch, I see him as a giant—this is how we usually saw him. For me, he's tall, plays like a two-metre centre-back [who] can't be beat. On the field, there are players who grow up, become giants, and others who hide themselves. He belongs to the first category," Leitao adds.

"I believe that there are coaches who mark players and players who mark coaches. He's one of those players who marks whoever crossed his way."

From one minor YouTube hit to the biggest stadiums in the world, Marquinhos has come a long way fast. And while he may not grow in height, his stature within the elite of the game seems to rise with every season.

          

Follow Marcus on Twitter: @_marcus_alves

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