Growing up, I always had a somewhat irrational obsession with Rafael Márquez. It was undoubtedly because of the simple fact that he was a Mexican crack who also happened to play central defense. Regardless, I latched onto him for good. Which is why it is with the utmost joy and delight that I write to share the fantastic news of Rafa’s storybook return to Mexico.
This weekend, the 36-year-old Zamora, Michoacán native completed his transfer return to Club Atlas for the 2016 Clausura.
He was met by an emotional crowd of 200+ upon his arrival in Mexico. ??
One of the most successful players in Mexican fútbol history (if not the most successful), Rafa made his debut with Atlas back in 1996 at the youthful age of 17 (mira Rafa de chavito!). His mind-blowing ball control and spatial awareness led to his speedy move to Europe no more than three years later in 1999, when he joined AS Monaco and proceeded to win a Ligue 1 trophy in his first season with the French club.
In 2003, Rafa made his fated move to FC Barcelona, where he – alongside Carles Puyol in the center of the Barça defense – went on to win four La Liga trophies and became the first Mexican to ever lift a UEFA Champions League cup. Perhaps most painfully (for Arsenal fans at least), he silenced Thierry Henry in the final en route to being crowned champion of Europe. Years later, Márquez linked up with Titi on the New York Red Bulls before returning to Mexico to win back-to-back Liga MX titles with Club León. His despedida in the Joan Gamper trophy match was an emotional one.
Márquez is quite simply the GOAT. He’s the only player in history to captain his national team in four separate World Cups – leading El Tri in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014, and even scoring in the round of 16 vs. Argentina, the opening match vs. South Africa, and the important 3-1 partidazo vs. Croatia.
It’s safe to say that there are more than a few people who are pretty damn psyched for Rafa’s return.
Welcome back, Kaiser de Zamora.