The capture of Mexican legend Rafael ‘Rafa’ Marquez represents a second significant coup for Major League Soccer outfit New York Red Bulls in the short space of just two weeks. The twice UEFA Champions League winner and Mexican national team captain will join his fellow former Barcelona teammate Thierry Henry in a side aggressively hunting their first Major League Soccer title.
“This is the right move for me. I believe in the project that the Red Bulls have started here in New York and now I hope to help them become the greatest team in MLS,” said the Mexican at his official unveiling at the new Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey on Tuesday. “I understand that the fans have placed their trust in me and I want to return that trust on the pitch as a Red Bull. There I have already won many titles with Barcelona and I hope to do the same here.
“MLS is a growing league and, and I am encouraged and happy to be a part of it,” added Marquez, who began his professional career at age 17 with Atlas in Mexico. “This is not the end of my career because I am only 31 and I hope to play football for a good deal longer. I am here to play and to win titles,” he went on, brushing aside assertions that he is heading to the States for early retirement.
Neither the Red Bulls nor their previous incarnation, the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, have been able to win a Major League Soccer crown, leaving the New York Cosmos of 1982 as the last side to bring an American Soccer title to the Big Apple. Now, with Marquez joining former Barcelona teammate Thierry Henry and former Colombia ace Juan Pablo Angel, it seems something of a dream team is in the making. “It can’t be denied now that New York has the best team in MLS,” he said of his new club, currently second place behind Columbus Crew in the league’s Eastern Conference.
Head coach Hans Backe is clearly overjoyed with the addition of the Mexican captain and former Barcelona and Monaco star to his squad. “This is a massive signing for us,” said the Swede, who spent a year working closely with Marquez as assistant to former Mexico national team coach Sven Goran-Eriksson in 2008. “He and [Thierry] Henry were good friends at Barcelona. They are both humble players and I believe it when they say they want to help the Red Bulls become champions of Major League Soccer. Marquez’s quality is unmistakable and I am a happy man today.”
The coach also announced that Marquez – a three-time FIFA World Cup veteran and scorer of Mexico’s first goal at South Africa 2010 – will be playing in a holding central midfield position for the Red Bulls, a departure from the centre-back role he occupied for Barcelona. “I have played many times in the centre of midfield. I know what to do there. I hope to give my best and help this team win wherever I end up on the field,” said Marquez, who is expected to make his debut for his new club in Chicago against the Fire on 8 August.