Who Is Rafael Marquez? Mexican with Alleged Sinaloa Drug Cartel Ties Headed for Fifth World Cup

Rafael Marquez could become only the third man to play at five soccer World Cups, having been named in Mexico’s preliminary squad for next month’s tournament.

The 39-year-old’s inclusion in the 28-man list is a significant development, given last August Marquez was named in a U.S. Treasury investigation into drug trafficking.

GettyImages-803528582 Mexico's defender Rafael Marquez during the 2017 Confederations Cup semi-final match between Germany and Mexico at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi on June 29, 2017. Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Over 20 people, including Marquez and Grammy-nominated musician Julion Alvarez, were named after a multi-year investigation into a drug-trafficking business allegedly run by Raul Flores Hernandez, who was arrested in July 2017.

According to the U.S. Treasury, Flores Hernandez had ties with the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels but operated his own independent operation in Guadalajara, in the north of Mexico.

Following the investigation, Marquez temporarily stopped playing for Atlas, his club side, but has always maintained his innocence and was not convicted of any crimes.

The former Barcelona, Monaco and New York Red Bulls standout has since returned to action and has been a regular for Atlas this season.

Should he play at the World Cup, the two-time Champions League winner would equal Germany’s Lothar Matthaus and fellow Mexican Antonio Carbajal as only the third player to feature at five World Cups.

Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon also made the squad for five World Cups, but did not play a single minute of the 1998 tournament in France.

Marquez has appeared 143 times for his national team but has not played for El Tri since the Confederations Cup in 2017, which saw Mexico lose 4-1 to eventual winners Germany in the semifinals.

"We believe there is room for Rafael to help,'' Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio was quoted as saying by ESPN.

"There is a mental part, in which experience and leadership allows playing in tough moments of world-class matches, and doing it with the same ease, leadership and criteria that only Rafa could."

Osorio surprisingly omitted Monterrey midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez from his preliminary list, while LA Galaxy’s Jonathan and Giovani dos Santos and Real Betis’ Andres Guardado made the squad despite injury concerns.

Teams have to submit their final, 23-man squads by 4 June, 10 days before the start of the tournament.

Mexico begin their campaign against defending world champions Germany on June 17 in Moscow, before taking on South Korea on June 23 in Rostov and Sweden in the final game of Group F in Yekaterinburg four days later.

After failing to qualify for the 1990 World Cup, El Tri has reached the round of 16 in each of the last six editions.

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