Mexico captain Rafa Marquez is all smiles after turning his career around for both club and country. (SNPA/Ross Setford/AP)
Look at the situation two ways: Either Rafa Marquez has truly found his best self since his departure from a maligned stint in MLS and is being rewarded accordingly, or Mexico has gone completely off the conventional path and lost it.
Speaking to media Monday ahead of Mexico's friendly against South Korea in San Antonio on Wednesday (the same team the U.S. men's national team will play on Saturday at StubHub Center), Mexico manager Miguel Herrera claimed that the only player that is a lock to make the roster for Brazil is Marquez, his captain.
Yes, the same Marquez whose emotional unpredictability and effort level came into question during his time with the New York Red Bulls, a time where his $4.5 million salary repeatedly came into question because of his performances and penchant for making a sideshow of his on- and off-field antics.
To Marquez's credit, he has turned things around for himself since leaving the Red Bulls for reigning Liga MX champion Leon. He returned to the national team set-up under Herrera in time to help Mexico make it to the World Cup (well, in large part thanks to Graham Zusi, but then in the two-leg playoff against New Zealand), and he won silverware with Leon by helping guide the club to the Mexican Apertura title.
For Marquez, making the trip to Brazil would mark a fourth World Cup appearance. From pariah and outcast to World Cup lock and captain: It's pretty mind-bending to think how far Marquez has come since he was flat out released by the Red Bulls on Dec. 12, 2012.