Rafael Marquez is returning to where it all started for him. After spending a year and a half with Italian club Hellas Verona F.C., on Monday he will be introduced to Liga MX club, Club Atlas. The same club where he spent as a child and where he made his professional debut for them almost 20 years ago.
The man known as El Kaiser De Michoacán started his illustrious career with the Guadalajara club, making his debut at the age of 17 in the start of the 1996 season. By the turn of the year and a few days shy of his eighteenth birthday, Marquez made his debut for the Mexican National Team in a February friendly in 1997. A year and a half later he just missed out at representing Mexico in the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
A year later, Marquez just missed out on helping Atlas deliver their first championship in 58 years and the second in the clubs history. That has been the closest Atlas has been in getting that illusive second title to this day.
A few months later Marquez made his move overseas and joined Monaco in the French league. That following year he helped lead Monaco to the Ligue 1 title.
By the summer of 2002 he had established himself as one of the best defenders in France and one of the best prospects Mexico had produced. At the age of 22 he captained El Tri at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
The following summer he made the move from Monaco to Spanish giants F.C. Barcelona. He spent seven years with the Catalan club, along the way he picked up four La Liga titles, a Copa Del Rey champion, three Supercopa de Espana, an UEFA Super Club, a Club World Cup, and two Champions League titles. He also established himself as one of the best center backs in the world as well as playing a defensive midfielder because of his vision and passing.
The next five years saw Marquez have a spell in the MLS with the New York Red Bulls, won two championships with Leon in Mexico, and returned to European soccer with Verona.
Now, at the age 36, who knows how much longer Marquez has to play top level soccer. Returning to Mexico allows him to play more consistent minutes and won’t have to travel across the Atlantic to play for Mexico. At his age he still hasn’t retired from Mexico, and when healthy has performed well with El Tri this year including a fine performance against Argentina in September.
With Atlas, he returns to the club that gave him his first start in professional soccer. He will now have the task of captaining Atlas and try to give them and the loyal fans their first championship since 1951. With the 100th year anniversary of the club coming in the next year, who better to try and lead them to that second title than the best player the club has ever produced.