15 Great Moments in Mexico Legend Rafael Marquez's Career

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2015

15 Great Moments in Mexico Legend Rafael Marquez's Career

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    Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

    Rafael Marquez is Mexico's best defender and one of the most prominent footballers that the country has produced.

    He debuted with Liga MX club Atlas when he was just 17 years old. His toughness and hunger secured him a spot with the national team in 1997, and his performance with El Tri took him all the way to Europe.

    During his time with Barcelona, Marquez won it all. He also used his experience to lead El Tri in some of the most important competitions in the world.

    Marquez is still in shape and proving his worth on the pitch. No wonder why Serie A side Verona acquired his services after the 2014 World Cup.

    On his 36th birthday, here are 15 great moments in the Mexico legend's career.

Contract with Monaco

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    LIONEL CIRONNEAU/Associated Press

    Rafael Marquez spent three years with Atlas before leaving to Europe. His performance with the Mexican club wasn't the main reason why he left the country.

    Actually, the center back caught the attention of Monaco during the 1999 Copa America.

    The Red and Whites' scouts traveled to Paraguay to see Pablo Contreras. However, they were dazzled with the Mexican, who joined the club in 1999 (Monaco signed both players).

    Marquez made his debut on August 14, 1999, against Bastia.

    He won the Ligue 1 title in his debut season, the Champions' Trophy (2000) and French League Cup (2002-2003) in his four-year stint with the club.

1999 Confederations Cup

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    In 1999, Mexico hosted the Confederations Cup, becoming the first country other than Saudi Arabia to organize the competition.

    Rafael Marquez, who had already signed with Monaco but hadn't made his debut, was an undisputed starter in Manuel Lapuente's XI.

    Showing his skills in the defensive line, Marquez stopped some of the most lethal strikers of the time, such as Ronaldinho and Alex, and helped El Tri secure the title.

    It was the first time the national team hoisted a FIFA trophy, and they did it with one of the most brilliant generations, which included Luis Hernandez, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Ramon Ramirez, Pavel Pardo, Claudio Suarez, to name a few.

Ligue 1 Best Defender

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    LIONEL CIRONNEAU/Associated Press

    In the 1999/00 season, Monaco secured the Ligue 1 title thanks to a 20-5-9 record, which gave them 65 points, seven ahead of Paris Saint Germain.

    Rafael Marquez appeared 23 times that season, 22 of those as a starter. He played a total of 1,937 minutes and scored twice, against Havre and Sedan.

    The Mexican proved to be a tough footballer who could join the attack without leaving his defensive duties unattended. Marquez's performance earned him the Best Defender honors that season, per CNN.

Contract with Barcelona

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    Firo Foto/Getty Images

    After four seasons with Monaco, Marquez landed a contract with Spanish heavyweights Barcelona.

    The Mexican appeared 26 times in his debut season with the Blaugrana (23 in La Liga and three in the UEFA Cup) and quickly became a leader of the back line.

    Marquez won everything there was to win in Spain and collected other high-profile European titles on the way.

    Overall, he spent seven seasons with Barcelona, scored 13 times and appeared in 240 matches, becoming one of the most trustworthy defenders in the world.

First Goal with Barcelona

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    BERNAT ARMANGUE/Associated Press

    Rafael Marquez was no stranger to scoring when he arrived in Barcelona.

    With Atlas, he put the ball away six times, while with Monaco he netted five. The Mexican had a great knack for goalscoring when he joined the attack in corner kicks and set pieces.

    His first goal with the Blaugrana came precisely like that.

    In Matchday 11, Barcelona faced Betis. Frank Rijkaard's side were losing 0-1 after 45 minutes, but in the second half, an inspired Marquez stepped into the box and sent the ball to the back of the net with a powerful header.

    It was his only goal of the season, but not his last one while playing for the Spanish club.

2006 Champions League

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    ALVARO BARRIENTOS/Associated Press

    In 2006, Rafael Marquez became the first Mexican footballer to hoist the Champions League trophy; something that Hugo Sanchez never accomplished.

    Marquez missed a month due to a knee injury suffered in a La Liga match, but was back in time to play the semi-final, against Milan.

    He partnered with Carles Puyol throughout the tournament, proving to be one of the toughest defensive duos. Barcelona only allowed five goals in 13 matches.

    Marquez appeared eight times in the tournament, all of them in the starting XI.

    He won the competition again three years later, but couldn't play the final showdown as he underwent a knee surgery.

Goal vs. Argentina in the Round of 16 of the 2006 World Cup

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Germany 2006 marked Rafael Marquez's second appearance in the World Cup.

    Mexico had amazed the world in the Confederations Cup, held a year earlier. In that tournament, El Tri fought head to head with the World Cup hosts in the third-place match, but left with defeat after an exciting overtime.

    When Ricardo La Volpe's side was drawn into Group D for the 2006 tournament, alongside Portugal, Angola and Iran, it seemed very possible that the team would advance to the round of 16, which they did.

    Mexico faced Argentina in the knockout stage. The squad came to the pitch with a lot of courage, and Marquez put the ball away just six minutes into the game for his first World Cup goal, after a lethal cross from Pavel Pardo.

    Hernan Crespo scored the equalizer, while Maxi Rodriguez netted in the overtime to give La Albiceleste the ticket to the quarterfinals.

2009 FIFA Club World Cup

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    Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

    After winning the Champions League for a second time in 2009, Rafael Marquez traveled with his teammates to the United Arab Emirates to play the FIFA Club World Cup.

    The Mexican appeared in the 2006 edition and even put the ball away once against America, but the Cules couldn't get pass Brazilian club Internacional in the final.

    Three years later, the center back appeared again in the tournament. Although he couldn't score, he faced another Liga MX club, this time Atlante.

    Ultimately, Marquez hoisted the trophy after Barcelona defeated Estudiantes 1-2 in the final showdown.

4 La Liga Titles

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    MANU FERNANDEZ/Associated Press

    Rafael Marquez hoisted the Liga trophy in 2004/05, 2005/06, 2008/09 and 2009/10. In those four seasons, he appeared 97 times, 88 of them as starter.

    He also put the ball away five times, three in the 2004/05 season, once in the 2008/09 season and once more in his last one with Barcelona.

    Marquez is the second most successful Mexican in La Liga when it comes to titles. He is one shy from Hugo Sanchez's five.

Goal vs. South Africa in the Opening Match of the 2010 World Cup

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    Phil Cole/Getty Images

    Four years after Mexico's painful loss to Argentina in the round of 16 of the 2006 World Cup, El Tri played the opening match in South Africa.

    It was the first time since 1966 that Mexico faced the host nation in the group stage and the first in 56 years since they played the inaugural game of the competition.

    El Tri had a terrible start, and with a superb goal from Siphiwe Tshabalala, the team was down by one after 54 minutes.

    But along came Rafael Marquez. The leader of the team once again showed his hunger and fierceness to secure the equalizer 24 minutes later.

    The captain's effort saved Mexico from a huge embarrassment.

2011 Gold Cup

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The last time Rafael Marquez appeared in the Gold Cup was in 2011.

    Eight years earlier, he secured the tournament's trophy at age 24. This time he was the veteran on the team.

    The then-Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre bet on a squad full of youngsters, such as Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos and Pablo Barrera, to name a few.

    Marquez scored once in the group stage, against Costa Rica, he also appeared in all six games, eventually leading his teammates to the title.

    This victory was very important because it granted El Tri the ticket for the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Liga MX Titles with Leon

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    Christian Palma/Associated Press

    After leaving New York Red Bulls, Rafael Marquez joined Mexican club Leon for the 2013 Clausura tournament.

    The squad was promoted to the Liga MX in 2012, after spending 10 years in the Ascenso MX.

    Los Panzas Verdes proved in a heartbeat that they were ready to tackle the challenge. In the 2012 Apertura, they reached the semifinals, and a year later, they claimed the title—with Marquez's help, of course.

    The center back led the defensive line in style, as the squad conceded 21 goals in 23 games (including the Liguilla). Marquez also scored once, against Puebla, his first goal in his home league since he left Atlas in 1999.

    But coach Gustavo Matosas wasn't done yet. In the following tournament, the 2014 Clausura, Leon had a shaky start, but recovered quickly. The team qualified for the Liguilla and reached the final match, which they won.

    Marquez's experience was key in the process. Ever since he left, Los Panzas Verdes have only won eight games out of 20.

First Player to Captain His Nation in Four World Cups

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    Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

    When coach Miguel Herrera decided to give Rafael Marquez the captain's armband, the center back became the only player in history that has had such honor in four World Cups.

    He did it first in Korea-Japan 2002, when Mexico lost to the United States in the round of 16. Then in Germany 2006, where he bagged his first goal in a World Cup, and four years later in South Africa, where he also scored. Finally, he led his team out in Brazil.

    At age 35, Marquez helped his teammates find inspiration when they needed the most, especially in the attacking zone.

Goal vs. Croatia in the Group Stage of the 2014 World Cup

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    In the 2014 World Cup, Mexico defeated Cameroon and tied with Brazil in the group stage, which meant they needed at least one point in the last match to qualify to the round of 16.

    The team hadn't shown a lot of power in the last third of the pitch. In the opening game, El Tri missed constantly, and it took a lot of effort from Oribe Peralta and Giovani dos Santos to finally defeat Cameroon 1-0.

    The game against the hosts was very demanding. Mexico couldn't attack a lot since they were focused in defending tightly.

    In the last match, Croatia needed to win to knock El Tri out of the competition. However, it was a tough task to achieve. After 71 minutes, neither team had scored, but Rafael Marquez made sure of changing that.

    The captain joined the attacking zone in a corner kick and proved his aerial game was still impeccable. It was his 15th goal for the national team.

    His goal was a confidence booster. Mexico went to win the match 3-1.

Contract with Verona

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Rafael Marquez returned to Mexico after the World Cup and eventually went back with Leon.

    Little did he know that he would only play two matchdays, because Serie A side Verona decided to acquire his services.

    At age 35, Marquez was the only member of the squad that represented Mexico in the 2014 World Cup that secured a contract overseas during the summer transfer window.

    So far, the center back has appeared 18 times in the Italian league and three more in the Italian Cup.

    All stats appear courtesy of ESPN FC, Ligue 1 and FEMEXFUT, unless otherwise noted.

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