They share the same name and the same nationality and they both play for teams who go by the nickname of Los Azulgranas. And while one may be more famous than the other, there is no question that both have the same burning ambition to help their sides claim the glittering prize of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009.
That, however, is where the similarities between Rafael Marquez Alvarez, the more famous member of the duo, and his namesake Rafael Marquez Lugo end. The former has made his name as a pillar of the Mexico and Barcelona defence, while the latter, a fellow international and a seasoned goalscorer with Atlante, is intent on raising his profile when the showpiece competition gets under way later this week.
Team-mates but never rivals
The paths of the Marquez boys have crossed on several occasions, though they have yet to face each other on the field of play. The central defender, the older of the two by a couple of years, left Mexico for Europe when he was only 19, while the front man made his league debut with Pumas UNAM in 2000, the same year in which the No4 was winning the French championship with Monaco.
Yet, even though Rafael Marquez the younger’s haul of 13 caps is dwarfed by the Mexico skipper’s collection of 86, the twosome have teamed up together on international duty. Thankfully for commentators and reporters their physical differences and the different positions they play in have made it relatively easy to distinguish the two whenever they step out for El Tri.
FIFA.com spoke to both of them as they prepare for the challenge of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009, and found that aside from the very obvious similarities between them, they also have a great deal of respect for each other.
A member of the Barça team that lost out in the 2006 final, Marquez Alvarez is determined to help set the record straight on this occasion. “It’s especially important for me that we go out and win,” he says. “Titles are always important but this is one tournament I’ve got my eyes on in particular. It’s a special competition and it also gives us the chance of finishing the year in the best possible way.”
His striking namesake expresses similar sentiments. “We know that opportunities like this don’t come around very often,” says the Atlante goalgetter. “The tournament’s about to start and it’s up to us to get out there and do the job. I think we have the ability and we definitely have the individual skill to excel and pull off a major achievement by beating Barcelona.”
Marquez against Marquez
There is every chance of the two finally crossing swords in Abu Dhabi. Should Atlante prevail in their quarter-final tie against the winners of the match between Al Ahli and Auckland City, they will face the European champions in the semis, as the imposing centre-half knows very well. “Yes, it would be the first time that two Rafael Marquezes will have ever faced each other,” he says with a smile. “We’ve played together in the national side but we’ve never been on opposing sides. It would be fun.”
That prospect is also one that pleases the lesser-known Rafael Marquez. “It would be fantastic to play against him,” he comments. “We need to win our opening game of course, but it would be a real thrill to face my namesake. He’s a lovely person and a great player but if and when it happens, all he’ll be able to see of me is the back of my shirt.”
Should the hoped-for meeting eventuate, the Barcelona stopper knows it will not be easy to get the better of his compatriots. “I know how good Mexican teams are. They have a lot of character. I know Rafa well, the goalkeeper Federico Vilar, who is one of the most important players in the team, and Santiago Solari. They are a strong side and it won’t be easy.”
However, for today at least, the last word goes to the striker. “Barcelona were amazing last year,” he says. “They played all the best teams off the park and showed why they are the No1 side in the world. They also play attractive football, which is what we try to do too. They always play the ball out of defence, with one or two touches, and I think a match between the two Azulgranas would be just fantastic.”