Full-backs were once renowned for their defensive capabilities. They became famous for their uncompromising tackling. Bolton Wanderers had two legendary exponents in Roy Hartle and Tommy Banks. Another was Liverpool defender Gerry Byrne, who played most of the 1965 Cup final, including extra-time, with a broken collarbone. Eventually, full-backs starting venturing further forward. For example, a contemporary of Byrne’s, Chris Lawler, would join in the attacks of Shankly’s teams and World Cup winner George Cohen of Fulham was often seen surging down the right wing at Craven Cottage. Now we can watch a modern genius at full-back: Marcelo.
Marcelo: A Modern Genius at Full-Back
Brazilians Transformed the Position
Brazilians often come to mind when you think of players in these positions. Starting back in the 1950s, it was Nilton Santos who many consider expanded the role. Then think of the thundering free-kicks of Roberto Carlos or the 1970 World Cup final goal of Carlos Alberto. The full-back became a key component of Brazilian teams’ attacks.
A Modern Genius
The current undoubted leading exponent is Marcelo. In a Real Madrid team of Galacticos, he stands out for his skill and attacking prowess. Spectators are drawn to the left wing where his flicks, left-foot artistry and combinations light up a match. At the FIFA Club World Cup he set-up Gareth Bale for two of his goals against Kashima Antlers with his usual stunning nonchalance. In a game in which Madrid dominated, Marcelo was able to go through his full repertoire. The odd nutmeg, instant control and even the catching of a pitch invader all featured. Though Bale would get the headlines, he could thank the 30-year-old Brazilian for his assistance. One wonders what the likes of Hartle and Banks would think of how the full-back role has been transformed by the likes of Marcelo.