The club confirmed on Wednesday that he has signed a new deal totalling three seasons and will now be part of the first-team squad. The fee is €5 million, although reports say they will only have to part with €1.8 million as the €3.2 million they paid Fluminense to have a first-option on midfielder Gerson was never returned.
Marlon only made his debut in the last weeks of the season, playing the final two league matches as Gerard Piqué was ruled out with injury. He played well enough to earn the permanent transfer, but just who is he? Who is Marlon Santos?
Marlon Santos da Silva Barbosa was born just to the North of Rio de Janeiro. He came through the ranks at famous Rio side Fluminense, showing promise but not so much promise that the vultures began circling at a young age.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 14, 2017
So he was able to develop untroubled by transfer rumours or massive life upheavals like moving to Europe to play for Benfica or Porto (it’s always Benfica or Porto). He became a key member of Brazil’s u20 side, starting in defence as the Selecao made their way to the final of the 2015 u20 World Cup, where they lost to Serbia.
He also managed to play for Fluminense, helping the Guerreiros win the inaugural Primeira Liga in 2016. His performances for Flu and Brazil were impressive enough to earn him a move to Catalunya. Barcelona brought him in on loan for the B team, and after his impressive cameo at the end of the season have now officially made the transfer permanent.
He made his debut off the bench during pre-season, playing well for the last half an hour of the Blaugrana’s win over Celtic. He then started against Leicester City and played wonderfully as Barcelona battered the English Champions 4-1. Notably, he played no part of the next pre-season game, which the Blaugrana lost 4-0 to Liverpool.
He couldn’t make his debut with Barcelona B straight away because he wasn’t granted the correct visa to play. This took a while to come through but eventually at the end of September he was granted a permit and made his debut.
Marlon’s first-team debut came against Las Palmas. He wasn’t expecting to start but came straight into the line-up after Mascherano’s injury and played excellently, completing 94% of his passes, making 3 clearances, 2 interceptions, winning 100% of his tackles and 100% of his aerial duels.
He played a small but key role in the move for Barça’s first goal, winning the move and moving it on to Busquets. He was calm and assured and allowed the Blaugrana to pick up a big win. He then repeated the trick for the last Liga game of the season as Barça beat Eibar 4-2 at the Camp Nou.
Firstly, he’s a natural right-sided centre-back. So he is perfectly capable of complimenting both Umtiti (who is left-footed) and Mascherano (who despite being right-footed is comfortable playing as a left-sided centre-back). This seems like a trivial point but it will help enormously with the balance of the defence should he be called on.
Besides that, he brings size. Piqué and Mathieu are both big bodies, and while Umtiti “plays bigger” than his listed height of 5’11, the Blaugrana could struggle against taller sides. Marlon stands over six feet tall and has broad shoulders, so would help alleviate this.
On the ground he strong in the tackle and quick to read danger. His ability on the ball is also an unheralded past of his game; he is confident in his own ability to turn away from pressing forwards and move the ball forward inbetween the lines. Completing 164/172 passes (95%) is testament to that.
Marlon looks a truly capable defender in the making, and off the back of the performances against Las Palmas and Eibar. He has now been signed and promoted and will likely replace Jeremy Mathieu in the Barça squad. A move that makes the Blaugrana younger and better.