Here is the fourth (and last) of my in-depth analysis of Arsenal’s centre-back targets by Aidan
2002 Joins Corinthians aged 8.
2010 Takes part in ‘the Future Champions’ youth tournament squad held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Instrumental in victories over Barcelona & PSG, the young prospect captivated many in his homeland. His rise begins.
2011 Called up to captain Brazil U17s at the South American championships. Brazil win, qualifying for the U17 World Cup- where he again captains his nation. His maturity & leadership are lauded.
2012/13 After a good youth tournament in January he’s given a senior squad place for the Copa Libertadores. Just 18, Marquinhos makes 6 first team appearances. Corinthians win the tourney – the first time in their history. He makes the Brazil U20s squad, and then the provisional squad for the Olympics. August ‘12- European side Roma have seen enough to take a chance on him, for an initial fee of €1.5 million to rise to €3 million if he makes 8 first-team appearances. His impact is immediate and spectacular- he makes 26 league appearances in the 12/13 season & relegates stalwart & Argentina international Nicolas Burdisso to the bench. Burdisso bore him no ill will, saying “he’s a little phenomenon. He has speed, heading ability, he knows what to do, he is humble. He is a little Thiago Silva”. He’s widely hailed as the find of the year & makes the Serie A team of the season. Fans affectionately compare him to cult Roma hero – Aldair. Both ball playing central defenders, happy to bring the ball out, not afraid of a tackle, with top class reading of the game. Aldair was no doubt a stronger specimen-a behomoth, & Marquinhos is capable of contributing far more to attacks.
Summer ‘13, having just turned 19- the youngster is linked to every cash-rich European giant. PSG win the race, parting with €31.4 million (allowing Liverpool to in turn sign Mamadou Sakho from the Parisiens …… tee-hee -hee!!!) In October ’13 he makes his full Brazil debut. His first season in France is a success. He makes 31 appearances in all competitions- in a title winning campaign, also contributing at the other end of the pitch- scoring five goals and grabbing two assists. He plays all 5 matches for Brazil as they win in the U21 Toulon tournament, and scores in the final.
Summer 2014- the perfect, meteoric rise starts to lose steam. Plastic PSG enter the market for another statement signing- spending a world record £50million fee for a defender on David Luiz (that’s a lot of oil), while already having £35million legendary defender, club captain & Marquinhos’ idol- Thiago Silva at the club. Ever since, Marquinhos has struggled to usurp one of his more senior International colleagues & secure a starting place in the heart of the PSG defence. He’s been in and out of the team, flung in all along the back four. He has publicly failed to rule out an exit, and it’s understandable when he’s largely regarded as one of the top centre-backs in the world- and his rise and progression was so sharply stunted almost by design, by his club. “My future is in Paris? At the moment, yes. But I can only speak of the present,” ….”Right now, I try to be professional. I try to work to win my place and to have playing time. We’ll see how the season will finish. Afterwards, there will be a reflection.” It should be noted- Barcelona are so commonly linked with Marquinhos- that if he does move on, they may be heavy favourites, and if Arsenal try to buy him then Wenger will need to win a few jackpots at the Betway casino to pay him him!
Manolas is the third centre back on this list to perform notably at Roma- could the defensive coaching there be crucial to these players’ success, or is there an extraordinary defensive scout at the club? Former manager Rudi Garcia was in charge at the time Roma signed Manolas & Benatia – Garcia was sacked following a poor run though. Perhaps his new relationship with former Miss Italy contestant Francesca Brienza, half his age, played a part…….
What an absolute hero!
Manolas, nephew of Stelios Manolas- a legend of Greek football, excelled first for AEK Athens and then for Olympiacos. It wasn’t until his combative showing for Greece in the 2014 World Cup- where they advanced out of the group stages for the first time, that he earned a big move to a top league. The first question at Manolas’s Roma unveiling was about his filling the gap left by Medhi Benatia, who had been beastly in the Roma defence the previous year. Manolas stated confidently, “He’s the past and I’m the present!” He hasn’t disappointed- his performances ensuring that his predecessor’s exit has not been an issue. Manolas is one of the best defenders in a one-on-one-situation vs an attacker. He is extremely mobile across the ground, with the speed to play in a high defensive line and to keep track of quick opponents- and he’s rarely beaten for strength by the more physical opponents either. 6 foot 2 & stocky, the Greek defender won’t shy away from a clash- as another rumoured Arsenal target, Alvaro Morata once found out- taking a casual Pardew-style headbutt from the Greek as a frustrated reaction to a heavy challenge, as Roma trailed late in the game.
Manolas combines the qualities of an old-fashioned centre-half with the modern need to build play from the back; indeed he has had one of the top pass completion records in Serie A and is also a dominating figure in the air. He’s somewhere in between the Koscielny & Mertesacker playing styles. Retired Roma hero Roberto Pruzzo, has described him as “one of the best defenders in Europe.” He’s still just 24 years old.
Which one would you choose?
Here is the original article with all the statistics for each target (and comparison with ours)