Rafael Marquez: the loyal solider
Centre-back will leave it all on the field for Mexico
Born: Feb. 13, 1979, in Zamora, Mexico
Clubs played for: Alongside Real Madrid and Mexican legend Hugo Sanchez, Rafael Marquez is one of the most successful Mexican players to ever play in Europe. Rafa spent three years, 1996-1999, with Guadalajara side Atlas before crossing the Atlantic in 1999 when Monaco paid $8 million for him. Marquez became Monaco's starting centre-back and won a Ligue 1 title and was named top defender in championship in his first season. Spanish giants Barcelona offered $6 million to Monaco for Marquez and brought the Mexican international to the Nou Camp in 2003. Since then, he has been a reliable defender for L'equip blaugrana and has won three La Liga titles, two Champions League titles and one Spanish Cup.
International career: Mexico's defence is a lesser unit without Marquez. He was an important component of the country's 1999 Confederations Cup winning squad, 2003 Gold Cup winning squad and 2002 and 2006 World Cup squads. Since 1998, Marquez has made 88 appearances for El Tri.
Why is he so special? Even though Marquez is sometimes consumed by his fiery temper — which leads to heated encounters with players and referees — the 31-year-old is a cerebral defender who can play anywhere at the back because he reads the game and can anticipate an attacker's desire.
His most famous moment: Marquez scored Mexico's opening goal against Argentina in its round of 16 matchup group at the 2006 World Cup. Mexico eventually lost the game 2-1 after extra time, but Marquez's goal was a beautiful volley, from an acute angle at the near post.
He said it: "I'm an aggressive player and that's one of my flaws, and because of that I get mad and lose control. But I'm learning to channel that energy now. I don't care about negative opinions because they come from people who don't know anything about football."
What they're saying about him: "(Marquez is) an iconic player who has a good track record and has shown strong sporting and human quality." — Joan Laporta, FC Barcelona president
Here is an interesting fact: In 2006, Marquez started the Champions League final against Arsenal. Barcelona won the game 2-1 and Rafa became the first Mexican ever to lift the European Cup.