Rafa Marquez will be Juan Carlos Osorio’s first major test with Mexico


Juan Carlos Osorio is in as the Mexico manager. Months after firing Miguel Herrera for an off-pitch incident, the Mexican federation announced the Colombian as its new national team coach.

Like any coach, Osorio is ready to put his own stamp on the team. In an introductory news conference –a format that always makes for an exciting adventure of diplomatic half-truths and premature assurances teams — the coach hinted at a possible setup going forward.

“Normally, we really like a 4-3-3 with only one central forward, and I think there are great possibilities with that,” he said at the news conference.

Now, the 53-year-old is set to head to Europe, a continent he knows well after working with Manchester City just after the turn of the century, to see how Mexicans are performing there. But he must work fast. The first match he’ll lead Mexico in is a World Cup qualifier against El Salvador on Nov. 13 before an unforgiving trip to San Pedro Sula to face Honduras.

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He is scheduled to see Javier “Chicharito” Hernandezi in Germany, Andres Guardado and Hector Moreno in the Netherlands. He’ll got o Portugal to visit Raul Jimenez, Hector Herrera, Miguel Layun and Jesus Corona. And yes, he’ll travel to Italy to see Rafa Marquez.

Marquez is a problem for Osorio. At age 36, Marquez is still seeing first-team minutes in a top-four league. His career stalled in MLS, enduring a horrendous spell with the New York Red Bulls, before bouncing back and leading León to consecutive Liga MX titles. From there, he moved to Hellas Verona, his current spot.

There’s no doubting Marquez’s credentials. In addition to the titles in his native country, he also won league championships in France and Spain and was the first Mexican to be on a team that won the UEFA Champions League.

There is doubt, however, about whether or not Marquez is currently among the best XI Mexican players. His fellow center back at the 2014 World Cup, Maza Rodriguez, is no longer receiving call-ups, and while Marquez’s speed isn’t slipping as quickly as Rodriguez’s, it’s clear he’s lost several steps. But the player still isn’t thinking about calling time on his international career.

“In the World Cup in South Africa, I thought maybe I would retire,” Marquez said at a news conference before the CONCACAF Cup, a match that he started in midfield, moved back to center back and then was substituted. “But the level of football keeps me here. I’m conscious that at some point my level will drop. So really I’m just going to enjoy doing what I can, while I can.”

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