NEW YORK – There's no hiding the fact that the newest member of the New York Red Bulls, Rafael Márquez, has proven a lightning rod for American fans in the burgeoning rivalry between the US and Mexico over the last decade.
Márquez is not oblivious to it and knows the reception he receives in MLS stadiums around the country will be a mixed one.
“It’s going to be good and bad with the Mexican community and people from the USA,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to be very welcome [by US fans] … but I’m here to be part of the team and to achieve things for the team.”
WATCH: Rafael Márquez's highlights
The fact that Márquez may be a villain in the eyes of some fans may not go away, but the former Barcelona man is confident he can win over fans with the same work ethic and production that earned him multiple titles in an illustrious European career.
“It’s normal,” Márquez said about being viewed as a villain. “But I come here to do my work on the team and to help the team to win titles.”
Márquez expects to continue to be part of the battles between the US and Mexico in future years. Like the US National Team, Mexico will resume their international competitive schedule with high-level matches in August and September.
First up for El Tri is an Aug. 11 friendly against World Cup champions Spain in Mexico to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of Mexico’s independence. That will be followed by a Bicentenary Cup from Sept. 4 to 8 in Guadalajara.
“I don’t know but probably yes, I will be called up to the National Team,” Márquez said of the upcoming matches.
Red Bulls manager Hans Backe, who was an assistant with El Tri during the Sven-Göran Eriksson era, encourages Márquez to continue to play for his country. During his 11 months in Mexico, Backe saw first-hand proof of the qualities that could make Márquez, the Mexican National Team captain, the future captain of the New York Red Bulls.
“It’s more how competitive he is to win games,” Backe said. “When we have had a poor first half, he was definitely a leader in the locker room to change things for the second half. He’s a great character and personality in the locker room.
“In the Mexican National Team, he did very well [as captain] and he has that kind of leadership to be captain,” Backe said.