The 35-year-old central defender will have the rare opportunity to captain his national side for a fourth World Cup tournament in Brazil, and Mexico will look to him for guidance as they look to progress from a difficult group along with Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon.
Should Marquez win his race to be fit he will likely line as part of Mexico’s three central defenders, along with Espanyol’s Hector Moreno and Porto’s Diego Reyes. Whilst both of these players currently play in Europe, they lack the vital experience of Rafael Marquez. Particularly 21-year-old Reyes who has only appeared 14 times for Porto’s senior squad since making the move last summer. Therefore, they will be looking towards Marquez to lead by example should he be fit to lead his country out against Cameroon on Friday.
Marquez started his career in his homeland at Atlas where he made his debut at the age of 17. During his time at the club he made 77 appearances managing to score 6 goals. Atlas also became runners-up in the Mexican league, losing the final against Toluca on penalties in 1999. Following this Marquez made his move to Europe, signing for French side Monaco. His signing was coincidence as Monaco has only spotted his talent whilst scouting Pablo Contreras in the 1999 Copa America. Monaco signed the pair and ultimately Marquez proved to be far more successful than Contreras. During his time at Monaco, Marquez managed to win three medals in the league and both French cups before moving onto Barcelona in 2003.
It is his time at Barcelona that most European football fans will remember. Marquez spent seven years at the Catalan giants before eventually being released from his contract in 2010. During his time in Spain Marquez managed to achieve more success, helping Barcelona to win four league titles, as well as two Champions League trophies. When Barcelona defeated Arsenal in the 2006 final, Marquez became the first Mexican to lift the famous trophy, an achievement that the great Hugo Sanchez could not reach during his time at Real Madrid. He got another medal in 2009 but Marquez missed out on playing in the final due to injury. Despite this he was a regular under Pep Guardiola, who rated the defender highly due to his confident distribution from the defence, as Marquez is equally comfortable playing a simple pass or a 60 yard pass out from the defence to attack in one move.
His next move was to the MLS with New York Red Bulls, a move that did not prove to be as successful as his previous transfers. Described as “second in worst New York Designated Player signings to Claudio Reyna” by a NYRB fan, Marquez failed to make an impression on the American side like he had hoped. He arrived in 2010 at a similar time to Thierry Henry but only managed to appear in 36 of the possible 73 league games in the MLS missing out due to injuries and suspensions. He left the club having picked up more play-off red cards than he did score goals in the MLS. His contract was terminated a year early by Red Bull’s and he immediately returned to his homeland and signed for Leon.
His spell at Leon has seen Marquez find his form and he captained his side to victory in the Apertura 2013 title as they defeated Club America 5-1 on aggregate over two legs. This was Marquez first league title in his homeland, more than 14 years after he had lost in 1999 on penalties. His improved form in Mexico has seen hopes boosted for a successful World Cup. At 35 years old it is unlikely Marquez will get to equal the record of appearing at 5 different World Cup’s set by Antonio Carbajal of Mexico, along with Lothar Matthaus as he will be 39 by the time of the tournament takes place in Russia in 2018. However, an opportunity to captain Mexico to a fourth and final World Cup will be one which Marquez will hope to thrive on. He will hope he can lead by example and that Mexico can cause a surprise in Brazil.