The man nicknamed 'the Kaiser' played in five World Cups, his first at 23 and his last at 39, although he regrets never having got past the last 16

Getting to play in one World Cup in not easy. Featuring in five World Cups is something that is within reach of the very few. Mexican legend and former Barça player a Rafa Márquez is one of the few after appearances in 2002 in Japan and South Korea, 2006 in Germany, 2010 in South Africa, 2014 in Brazil and 2018 in Russia. 

Only his fellow Mexican Antonio Carbajal and German legend Lothar Matthaüs have equalled Márquez's feat and the current Barça Atlètic boss takes a look back at his long history in the tournament. 

What does it mean to have played in five World Cups?

It took a lot of work and sacrifice, especially the final World Cup in 2018. However, beyond whether it is a landmark or a record, I would have liked to have done more with the national side. We only ever made it to the last 16 and we never got to the quarter-finals, an achievement that has escaped us for a long time. 

What was missing? 

There were different circumstances. For one reason or another it was tough for us. Rather than saying it was 'bad luck', it was circumstances in games or our opponents. In 2006 we lost to Argentina thanks to a Maxi Rodríguez screamer. In Brazil in 2014 it was a dodgy penalty; let's hope this time Mexico can get through. 

You played in five World Cups, the first at 23 years of age, the last at 39. What is the key? 

A lot of dedication, discipline, effort, hard work. It was not easy to maintain that level of competitiveness, that and discipline were the most important to be good physically and mentally. 

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Furthermore, you were captain in all five. What qualities would you highlight? 

Lots. Amongst them, you have to be an example for your team mates, try to help, encourage, foster respect, try to the right hand man of the coach on the field. There are lots more. I think, from when I was young, when I went out on to the field I always tried to do my job, but I also liked to help others as much as I could. 

You played in 5 World Cups in 16 years. How did football change between 2002 and 2018? 

In general, it has developed a more physical and dynamic side. Now there are a lot of tools to look after players, analyse footballer and make him more complete. That has helped football develop a lot. 

That explains how there are more and more players reaching that figure of five World Cups...this year Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Guardado and Ochoa will join the list. 

Yes, exactly. Almost certainly there will be someone who breaks the record of five World Cups soon. Players are better looked after and they start early and finish later. For example, if he continues like he is, Gavi could be one of the first to break that record, due to his talent and his mentality because you see him and you think that there nothing stopping him from doing it in the future. 

For talent and mentality, Gavi could be one of those who could break the record of five World Cups

Rafa Márquez

Your five World Cups, no-one can take that away. Which is your best moment? 

The World Cup in 2006 in Germany. It was the one where we were closest to getting to the quarter-finals, where I was able score my first goal, which turned out to be important. I think it was the best national team I played in. But we lost against a big team and rival, Argentina. Furthermore, I think personally I went into the tournament in great form after having won the Champions League in 2006 with Barça and I felt really confident.

What do you remember of your debut? 

It was like when a child's dream comes true. It was against Croatia and I remember it perfectly and I enjoyed it a lot. I was accompanied by my family and that made it special. I came into the World Cup just 23 years old but they gave me the chance to be captain and that surprised me. There was a pecking order, but they chose me. I guess it was because when I went out on to the field, I stopped being the shy boy that I was and I was transformed. 

And your last game?

Well, happy to have made the effort of finishing my long career such as mine in a World Cup. In my final game, unfortunately, we lost against Brazil in the last 16 but I was able to play in the starting XI and being captain again. And yes, the word is this one: satisfaction at having played in that World Cup but also for all my years. 

You must have had many moments but any story that you like to remember? 

During all my years I had the chance to play alongside different groups of players. With each one there were a lot of great moments, memories and laughs. For example in 2006, our keeper Osvaldo Sánchez lost his father just before the tournament brought us together. Our team mate left to say goodbye to his father but he came back to play but that was his wish. 

Amongst the different groups, with which team mate do you have a special relationship? 

With Andrés Guardado, for example. We have a great friendship, a great relationship. Now he is captain of the Mexican side. He always has said that I was a role model for him, but he is for me as well. They are friendships that last. 

I was surprised to be captain in my first World Cup. It was because when I went out on to the field, I stopped being the shy boy that I was and I was transformed

Rafa Márquez

Which teams do you see as favourites? 

South America come in with two great teams as candidates, Argentina and Brazil. Then, of the European teams I think France, the holders, Germany, Spain and Belgium are strong as they have important players. 

Who will be top goalscorer?

I am going for Leo Messi. 

Which blaugrana do you think will get furthest? 

I think Spain will go far, so the eight blaugranes that are in Qatar with Luis Enrique: Ansu, Pedri, Gavi, Sergio, Eric, Alba, Ferran and Balde.


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