The most famous Mexican player in the world talks about his example to fellow players, his growth as a player, his contract, and a nagging knee injury.
Rafael Marquez is the first Mexican to make it to the Champions League final. Though glad for the achievement, he’s saddened by the lack of compatriots in Europe.
Knowing his influence could open doors for other Mexican players—as it has for Jared Borgetti and Guillermo Franco—he feels it has not been enough to persuade many others from leaving their home roots.
“There aren’t too many Mexicans coming to play over here, and that’s the problem,” Marquez told ESPN Deportes’ RECORD solemnly, “I’ve been out of Mexico for seven years and not many have followed me.”
“I keep trying to bridge the gap, to open doors for players to follow, while furthering my career and reaching my goals.”
Said ambition has turned Marquez into the best Mexican soccer export in recent times, though he’s taking it all in stride.
Marquez has clearly evolved, matured as a player. Proof of this is the fact he did not commit a single foul against AC Milan in Barcelona’s semifinal series; not bad for the man who was dismissed from the USA match in ’02 (a 2-0 loss) and red-carded in the ’05 Confederations Cup game versus Argentina.
“You learn from your mistakes, you become mature and try not to repeat them. I’ve matured quite a bit to not repeat those mistakes. In Milan and Barcelona I did well and hope to stay on the same track.”
Rafa admits his expectations have far been exceeded since his arrival in Europe, as this year Barça is on the verge of a championship double—their 18th La Liga title and 2nd Champions League title.
“I dreamed of playing in Europe. I never imagined all that’s occurred, but now that it’s here I want to work hard to continue to reach new heights and keep it up for many years.”
Evidently, greatness is contagious, as being accustomed to playing with the world soccer elite has elevated his game to the highest level, making the Mexican national’s marriage to the Catalan side a success story for all.
“The team has matured greatly, and we’ve worked hard to make this happen. We’ve learned from past mistakes, from lost games.”
Marquez mentioned there have not been talks to renew his contract, which expires in ’07.
“We haven’t reached an agreement yet,” Marquez said. “Of course both sides are eager to renew, but we have yet to sit down and resolve the issue.”
Toughing it out
Keeping a high level in two tournaments has not been easy for Marquez, as he’s been bothered by ligament strains on his left knee. Surgery’s not an option at the moment; the damage will have to be repaired following the World Cup, and in the meantime, he’ll tough it out.
“I’ve felt much better, but the problems won’t go away,” said Marquez. “Little by little, however, the injury’s getting better, and I’ve had less troubles. I hope to keep going like this as long as possible. If I require surgery I’ll do it at the appropriate time, but right now it’s evolving well. After the World Cup, some time will have to be made for surgery, but not now.”