The smile says it all. Not long past his 20th birthday, Marcelo's professional career is going from strength to strength. He might not get any holidays this summer, but the left-wingback is not complaining: he should be part of Dunga's Brazil team at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament in Beijing.
With a brace of La Liga titles with Real Madrid under his belt, Marcelo is currently training with the senior Brazil squad ahead of the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers against Paraguay and Argentina. "It has always been my dream to play for Brazil," he said. "I must admit that at the moment I'm totally focused on the possibility of playing at the Beijing Olympics, but this squad get-together is very important. It's a way of gaining experience and exchanging ideas."
Another member of the
Seleção squad being put through his paces at the training
camp on American soil is Alexandre Pato, one of a long line of
Brazilian stars recruited by AC Milan. "I think the Olympics
might be the moment Pato really explodes on to the scene",
commented Marcelo of his former team-mate at the FIFA U-20 World
Cup Canada 2007. "At the moment, we're both making the
most of the chance to impress the boss," he added in an
exclusive interview with
The one major honour still missing from Brazil's trophy cabinet is Olympic gold, and Dunga will oversee the mission of attempting to bring it home from Beijing. " . I want to make history but first we have to produce the goods on the field", he said.
Despite reaching the final at the 1984 and 1988 editions of the tournament, Brazil fell just short on both occasions. And after failing to qualify for Athens 2004, they are determined to get it right this time. "We've got a good group of players, and Dunga will lend us all his experience as a senior international player and coach," said Marcelo.
In Beijing, the team will share a hotel with the talented Brazil
women's team, led by Marta, the FIFA Women's World Player
for 2007. The latter side reached the final at Athens 2004, only to
lose out in a dramatic game with USA. "I love watching the
women's games," Marcelo revealed.
It's not all that popular yet but I'd like to see the game get more support and exposure." But what if the women bring back gold and the men return empty handed? "Ah, that might be a bit of a problem," he admitted.
Brazil's first hurdle will be getting out of Group C, which
features Belgium, New Zealand and China. It is a manageable task
made a little more complicated by the presence of the host nation.
"Every team that gets to the Olympics is strong," the
former Fluminense player opined. "It's always difficult to
play against the home team because the crowd get behind them, so we
have to stay focused and play as a unit."
But other opponents worry him even more. "Argentina could provide our toughest test because they've got a very strong generation of players like [Lionel] Messi, [Sergio] Aguero, [Gonzalo] Higuain and [Fernando] Gago."
The Spanish experience
Indeed, the latter two arrived at Real Madrid at the same time as Marcelo, just two years ago. It was around this time that the club finally brought the galáctico era to an end, a period marked by a trophy drought at the Bernabeu.
"Since I arrived at the club, a lot has changed in the dressing room. There's a good camaraderie in the squad now, and we're happier as a result. Winning La Liga last year helped us a lot, and we have to keep up that positive team spirit", said Marcelo.
Although he still misses the sands of Rio de Janeiro's
Copacabana, he has enjoyed an otherwise seamless transition to life
in the Spanish capital. "When I first got here, I got great
support from the guys and they've always been there for me when
I've needed it," he explained.
His breakthrough into the first team was not easy for him given that it came at the expense of his idol, Roberto Carlos. "No," he protested, "It didn't come at his expense. I inherited it from him. It was a dream for me to play alongside him."
Just like Roberto Carlos, the younger man possesses speed and power in abundance, is reliable at the back and has a natural tendency to join the attack. He does, however, bear a closer physical resemblance to fellow compatriot Robinho than his mentor. "People on the street get us mixed up. But I can assure you I've never signed an autograph in his name," Marcelo added with a smile.
If Robinho is one of the established stars of the senior Brazil
team, Marcelo dreams about being one in the future. For the moment,
his most precious memory in the famous shirt is undoubtedly his
debut in September 2006 in a friendly against Wales.
"I was still playing for Fluminense at the time. When I got the call, ." As was his goal against the Welsh, a thunderous strike from outside the area that Roberto Carlos himself would have been proud of.
And the young Carioca has another lofty ambition in his sights: "I want to go to the World Cup, so I'm going to have to work hard towards that goal every day." And what better way to convince Dunga than a successful Olympic tournament.