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 Posted by Andrea Canales
Aug 4, 2014

Marquez's adventurous career continues in Verona

ESPN FC's Steve Nicol reacts to the news of Rafael Marquez's transfer to Hellas Verona.

Retirement is a dirty word for some players, especially those who have thrived by refusing to accept limits.

For Rafael Marquez, a renaissance return to Mexico's national team in late 2013 led to a fourth World Cup appearance. In Brazil, he captained El Tri on a run to the round of 16, where Mexico was mere minutes away from eliminating the Netherlands. Even before the 2014 tournament began, Marquez was already basking in the glow of back-to-back domestic championships with Leon.

Still, all that apparently hasn't been enough to keep the defender from feeling restless, so he has embarked on a new challenge. Marquez will return to European play in the service of Italy's Serie A club Hellas Verona.

It could be that Marquez is eager for a bit of redemption. Though he scored a goal versus Croatia in group play that helped send Mexico on to the next round, Marquez will likely be remembered for giving up the penalty to Arjen Robben that resulted in the El Tri's elimination from the World Cup.

Despite the belief of many fans that the move Marquez made on Robben "No fue penal!" -- or, "It wasn't a penalty" -- it's ignominious for a defender of his experience and savvy to be part of the reason, no matter how Robben exaggerated, for his team's exit from the world's most prestigious competition.

Perhaps Marquez needed new worlds to conquer. His time with Barcelona in Spain was hugely successful, as he won numerous titles there. Marquez also had a stint in France with Monaco, but he has never played for an Italian club.

It's also possible that Marquez read the writing on the wall and understands that now his national team career is finally at an end. El Tri coach Miguel Herrera has spoken recently about the need to rebuild the squad for the future. Herrera said that he has already spoken to some team veterans about this, mentioning Marquez in particular.

Rafa Marquez is set for a new adventure, finally getting an opportunity to play in Italy's Serie A.

It is actually easier for a player to perform in Europe when he can concentrate solely on his club without national team distractions. For CONCACAF players especially, the grind of travel back across multiple time zones from Europe to play in World Cup qualifying or other national team matches is very difficult.

It's probable that Mexico's poor performance as a team in 2013 was due in part to their European core of players feeling less than their best due to travel from England, Spain and Portugal. Without worrying about making that kind of trip, Marquez can probably eke out the most from what his body still has to offer.

- Marquez moves to Hellas Verona

As for Hellas Verona, they are probably pleased that they beat out the likes of Lazio to sign Marquez to a one-year deal. A contract for that length of time is to be expected for a player in his mid-30s. An option to extend the contract is also included. The club finished 10th in Serie A last season. If Marquez can help the club improve on that record, his signing will be considered a success.

Given that focusing solely on his club should improve his performance and longevity, there's no reason for Marquez to mourn the end of his national team tenure. He couldn't be expected to catch Mexico's Iron Man, Claudio Suarez, who has 180 caps to Marquez's total of 126. Marquez still has the distinction of having captained Mexico in four World Cups.

The defender himself seems to be looking forward to his new adventure. He posted on his Twitter account a thank-you to Leon fans, saying he will always carry the club in his heart. Verona, however, will be the new crest on his chest soon.

Andrea Canales

Andrea Canales has covered soccer for over a decade and has loved the beautiful game most of her life. She has watched games in Azteca, interviewed nine El Tri coaches and covered three World Cups. She lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @soccercanales.

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