Mexico legend Oswaldo Sanchez says Rafa Marquez has to be included in El Tri's final World Cup squad because of the experience and quality he brings on the field.
Marquez's quest for a fifth World Cup met a significant obstacle in the summer of 2017 when the United States Department of Treasury designated him as a frontman for a drug kingpin, freezing the defender's bank accounts and limiting his travel. While Marquez still can't enter the United States, he's set to go to Russia with Mexico during the World Cup, something his former El Tri teammate believes is a good thing.
"He’s super important, first of all, because he has a lot of experience playing. He’s 39 years old. Second, he’s the Mexican player who has won the most titles outside the country. Aside from winning the Champions League with Barcelona, he’s a guy who played at Monaco and played in Italy, who played in Spain, who was a champion in Mexico with Leon. He still has the ability to play," Sanchez told Goal. "Above all, he can provide leadership and speak up in the locker room.
"I don’t think there are old or young players in soccer, just players who are talented and others who don’t have it. I think Rafa fills the role as a player who has a lot of talent and that’s why he should be in the national team because he can help you on the field or off it."
Sanchez went to three World Cups during his career, starting all four matches in the 2006 tournament in Germany. After that tournament, Mexico's current No. 1 Guillermo Ochoa started getting calls to the national team. Sanchez has seen Ochoa's development from day one and has no doubt that Mexico is well situated between the posts in 2018.
"I’ve seen [Ochoa's development] go well. He’s already played a World Cup and he did really well in Brazil, making some really important saves," Sanchez said. "He’s a goalkeeper who has the personality needed to be the starter for the national team, who arrived at this stage with a lot of maturity.
"This national team has goalkeepers who have a lot of experience. [Ochoa] just won the cup in Belgium and finally has a European title. For me, the team can rely on Memo. He’s a player who has a lot of confidence in himself, he has great reflexes.
"I know him really well because when I was at America he was in the school there. I’ve seen him train a lot and he’s always shown me the desire to be a pro goalkeeper and that’s why I’d say Mexico doesn't have any problems in goal, because Memo Ochoa is a great goalkeeper and because if he can’t be there, [Alfredo] Talavera and [Jesus] Corona both are there and can do things well."
While there are plenty of criticisms lobbed at the modern edition of the team, often by former players or managers who believe they could have, or have done better, Sanchez instead said he had a positive outlook for Mexico thanks to the experience of players like Marquez and Andres Guardado plus rising stars such as Hirving Lozano who can make a difference.
"Coming in, they qualified easily, practically ’caminando’ (walking), almost doing it undefeated and getting a lot of points," he said. "Now we’ve also got a lot of players who are playing at important clubs, and that can help the national team. There are 11 players, and in some way this experience these guys have gotten in Europe can help the young Mexican players who have come in doing things well and have the desire to get to the national team and shore up their place.
"I think this mix of experienced and young players, and above all the experience a player like Rafa Marquez, who looks like he’ll be on the list, has can really help the national team at the World Cup because he can bring something different."
Sanchez spoke with Goal thanks to Powerade, which is running a World Cup Bracket Challenge on its website during the tournament and allows fans to win prizes if they get their picks right.