As competitive and as daring as they come, the baby-faced Marc Marquez this year became the youngest ever world champion in MotoGP, the pinnacle of motorcycling. The record-breaking 20-year-old with the infectious smile has now clinched titles in all three world championship categories and is only the second rookie to take the title in the highest class of all.
After a season in which he has amazed the watching world, the Spaniard was named by no less an authority than Valentino Rossi, the greatest rider in the history of the sport, as his successor.
Marquez first climbed on to a bike at the age of four and has barely got off since. Even so, he still finds time to enjoy other sports, none more so than football. A die-hard Barcelona fan, the newly crowned MotoGP champion heads to the Camp Nou whenever he can to cheer on his close friend Gerard Pique, almost always in the company of his younger brother and fellow rider Alex.
With the season now over, the fresh-faced Marquez spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about his love for football, motorcycle racing as a team sport, his take on Gerardo Martino’s Barça and his favourites for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or.
FIFA.com: You’ve had an amazing year. Has it sunk in yet?
Marc Marquez: No. I haven’t really had much time for it to sink in, and I still can’t believe it. The day after winning the world title we had to go straight out and do some testing for next season.
You’ve reached the top so fast. What do you think the future holds and how are you going to approach it and set your objectives?
I prefer to take each day as it comes and not think about the future. I just try to get better every day and give all I can. The challenge now is to go and win the world title again.
You’re a football fan. Do you play or just watch?
I love watching matches. Whenever I can I try to sneak off with my friends for a game or a kickabout. I really enjoy playing.
Every coach has their own style, just like us riders. I like Tata’s offensive style and I’m sure he’ll win trophies.
Do you try to follow what’s going on in the Spanish league?
As much as I can. I try to watch games but it’s not easy when we’ve got races on. Obviously my priority is my work and the bikes, but I try to watch football when I get the chance.
You’ve said several times that you’re a Barcelona fan. What do you think about Gerardo Tata Martino’s Barça and do you miss Pep Guardiola?
Every coach has their own style, just like us riders. I like Tata’s offensive style and I’m sure he’ll win trophies. We need to give the new coach time. They raised the bar very high before him and he’s not in an easy position, though I think he’s doing a good job.
How do you think the national team is shaping up for next year’s FIFA World Cup and are you thinking of going to Brazil?
The fact is I hadn’t thought about going to the World Cup because it falls in the middle of our season and it won’t be easy to get there. If I have the chance, though, I’d love to go and see a game.
Football is a team sport, whereas motorcyling is an individual sport in which you compete against your team-mate. Do you wish you had the same sense of unity that you get in team sports?
Just because the rider’s racing on his own on a bike doesn’t mean to say it’s an individual sport. As far as I’m concerned, the team is very important and we all have to work as a unit: the engineers, mechanics, etc. That means that when I go back to the pits, I have to be able to express what I feel on the bike. If I don’t, the engineers and mechanics won’t be able to do their jobs. And if the bike isn’t set up right, then it won’t go fast and I won’t be able to get good results.
Voting is already under way for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or. If you could, who would you give your vote to?
[Lionel] Messi and [Andres] Iniesta have played very well this year, but I wouldn’t know who to choose. (Editor's note: The interview took place before the three finalists were named).
Who would you nominate as the best rider of the season in your sport?
In Moto3 I’d vote for my brother Alex Marquez, who was named Rookie of the Year. (laughs). (Note: Alex scored one win and five podium finishes en route to fourth place overall in his debut season in the world championship).
One last question. Have you had time to vote for the FIFA Puskás Award for the best goal of the year at FIFA.com?
The fact is I haven’t, but I’ll have a look and I’ll vote.