He may have lost his place in the starting XI at Barcelona, but the best defender in Mexican football history remains vital to Javier Aguirre's plans.
Rafael Marquez is much more than just a footballer. He is captain of the Tricolor, one of the team's leaders both on and off the field, the starting point for Mexico's attacks and the man charged with frustrating opposition forwards.
From an early age, it was clear that the player the Mexican press have dubbed the "Kaiser of Michoacan" was going to be something special. His first call-up to the national team came when he was just 17. Within two years he was a fixture in the side that won the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup on home soil, starting alongside the legendary Claudio Suarez in central defence in a pairing considered the best in Mexico's history.
That tournament over, Marquez headed for Europe to join AS Monaco, winning the French title at the end of his first season in 1999/00. After another three Ligue 1 campaigns in the principality, he became Joan Laporta's first signing as president of Barcelona.
Marquez quickly established himself in the first team at the Nou Camp, going on to collect a host of honours with the Azulgrana, including two UEFA Champions Leagues, three Spanish league titles, and one FIFA Club World Cup.
Success has been harder to come by with Mexico but he has been one of the symbols of the Tricolor team ever since his arrival in the national set-up. His first FIFA World Cup™ came in Korea/Japan in 2002 where he captained the side. He wore the armband again in Germany four years ago, and has also skippered his country at the CONMEBOL Copa America, CONCACAF Gold Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup.
South Africa will be his third appearance on world football's biggest stage and it will also be his last. Marquez has already announced his decision to retire from the international arena once the tournament is over, passing on the mantle to a younger generation and allowing himself to concentrate on his club career.
The 31-year-old differs from many defenders in that he is stronger with the ball than he is without it. He is a technically accomplished player with an impressive passing range. His ability to hit precise, long passes means he is often found starting Mexico's attacking play from his deep position. It also explains why he has sometimes featured in midfield for both his club and country.
In his defensive work, he is physically strong, solid in the air – a quality he employs in attack also – and has good positional sense. Despite the occasional blip, he is simply a world-class defender and will be one of Aguirre’s key players in South Africa.