Argentina & Boca great Silvio Marzolini dies: ‘A player that helped redefine the role’

Argentina bid farewell to undoubtedly one of the finest footballers in its history on Friday as Silvio Marzolini passed away at the age of 79.

The Boca Juniors legend, who won seven titles at the club as player and manager and is widely considered to be the best ever left-back for the Albiceleste, succumbed to cancer after his health had deteriorated.

As Jonathan Wilson told the Golazo podcast when discussing an all-time XI, Marzolini was “one of the first three great attacking left-backs and in the 1960s helped redefine the role. He was a pioneering player.”

Marzolini made his professional debut at 18 with Buenos Aires club Ferro Carril Oeste and had already made quite the name for himself having fallen out with the club’s board a couple of years earlier when arguing that he should have been in the first team. The precocious youngster’s talents were clear and that eventual debut in 1959 against Boca Juniors was enough for the Xeneizes to snap up the full-back along with goalkeeper Antonio Roma at the end of the campaign.

Straight into the Boca eleven, Marzolini started every game the following season and began a life-long bond with the blue and gold.

The first of five league titles followed in 1962 and although Boca would narrowly miss out on the Copa Libertadores in the subsequent season, losing to Pele’s Santos in the final, it proved a successful decade. Primera titles in 1964, ’65, ’69 and ’70 and a Copa Argentina in 1969 handed Marzolini the silverware his career deserved.

Marzolini’s international career couldn’t reproduce that same success but it didn’t prevent the defender playing at two World Cups and in 1966 being voted as the best left-back at the tournament ahead of Italian Giacinto Facchetti.

El Gráfico voted Marzolini as Argentina’s best ever and his modern, attacking style was ahead of its time. “I always like to play with freedom, get on the ball and get forward. I’m not content with just defending and to stay back. I can fulfil both functions,” Marzolini told the magazine in 1968.

These performances had seen Marzolini turn down offers from Real Madrid, AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina to remain at Boca. Only after leading a players strike in 1971 did it eventually lead president Alberto Armando to allow the 32-year-old to leave yet rather than look elsewhere Marzolini retired.

Only Roberto Mouzo and Hugo Orlando Gatti have made more appearances for the club with none matching Marzolini’s tally of 37 Superclásicos and even after hanging up the boots the defender left his mark.

Putting his modelling and a brief spell in charge of All Boys behind him, Marzolini returned as manager in 1981 and with a young Diego Maradona in the side along with the likes of Miguel Brindisi, Hugo Gatti and Oscar Ruggeri, Boca lifted the 1981 Metropolitano.

A return as manager in 1995 for a reunion with Maradona couldn’t yield another title but nothing could diminish Marzolini’s status.

The great full-back might be gone but Marzolini remains the benchmark in Argentina.