Real Madrid left-back Marcelo said it would be a “mistake” if his side just focused on trying to stop Neymar in Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Paris Saint-Germain because the Ligue 1 side have quality players throughout their team.
Much of the build-up to the first leg of the round of 16 has focused on Neymar joining Madrid, with the former Barcelona player a past and potential future target of club president Florentino Perez.
However, speaking at the pregame news conference, Madrid vice-captain Marcelo said PSG’s “collective,” including attackers Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, would also need attention.
“It is not just Neymar — their whole team is very good,” Marcelo said. “It would be a mistake to think just about him. He is a great player. They have three players at a very high level, but the collective is most important. We think about their whole team, not just Neymar.”
After clarifying recent comments to say he thought it was only a possibility, not a certainty, that Neymar would play for Madrid someday, Marcelo said he disagreed with an idea that more traditional fans — such as Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy — would not want such a character at their club.
“I believe Madrid fans like good players,” Marcelo said. “Neymar is a world star. Of course, any fans in the world would like to have him in their team.”
Marcelo said he did not think PSG would be mentally affected by their experience at this stage of the competition last year, when they seemed set to eliminate Barcelona but collapsed late at the Camp Nou with Neymar the protagonist in their downfall.
“Every game is different and every season is even more different,” he said. “I don’t believe they will have this in their heads. We will not think about it either. It will be a very difficult tie. We will give everything, but [we are] not thinking they will have this in their heads.”
Madrid are also under pressure given they are already out of the La Liga title race and the Copa del Rey, but Marcelo backed coach Zinedine Zidane and said a side going for a third consecutive Champions League had nothing to prove to anybody.
“[Zidane] is a great coach. The situation is not what where we wanted to be,” Marcelo said. “But he has done a lot for this team, and will keep doing so, so that things return to how they were. He has a lot of patience, believes in his work, and we believe too in what he tells us.
“We do not have to demonstrate anything to anybody. We know what we can do. This is a nice game that all players want to play. But we do not worry too much about what people say, good or bad.”
Meanwhile, former Madrid player, coach and sporting director Jorge Valdano told “El Transistor” radio show that captain Sergio Ramos calling fans to get to the stadium early was a sign of insecurity among the squad after recent bad results.
“If the Real Madrid captain is asking for the support of the fans, it is because there is insecurity in the team,” Valdano said.
He also said that it is time for Cristiano Ronaldo to step up again — as he did during the decisive games in last year’s competition.
“[This] is a game made for Cristiano Ronaldo’s ambition,” he said. “I would bet a lot on his recovery. He is now obliged to become again the great Cristiano Ronaldo, as Madrid cannot end up out of the Champions League.”
Valdano said rumours Lucas Vazquez could start instead of Gareth Bale to add a greater work rate down Neymar’s wing were difficult to believe.
“I doubt a lot that Zidane would not play the BBC in a game of this magnitude,” the Argentine said.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan