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Rafa Marquez talks Xavi, Lewandowski, Messi, Pique, Alba, Laporta, Pablo Torre

Rafa Marquez returned to Barcelona earlier this year, replacing Sergi Barjuan as the manager of the Barça Atletic team.

The Mexican tactician spent seven years as a player at the Catalan giants between 2003 and 2010 and won two UEFA Champions League titles with the club.

Talking to SPORT, he revealed how his return to Barcelona materialised, saying: “Already since last year there were those talks. I was doing the coaching course in Madrid and they had offered me the Juvenil A, but because I didn’t have the qualification I couldn’t come.

“This year they continued with the same idea, Barça Atlètic was finally proposed to me and it is a great opportunity. I want to take advantage of it, continue growing and where better than at home.”

Barça Atletic have started well under Marquez, having been unbeaten so far in the new season. “The players have understood the concepts, the idea of the game and what we are incorporating. We have worked very well from the first day and the results accompany,” he said.

As for his thoughts on the current Barcelona first-team, the Mexican said: “There is a very competitive squad, two players per position, great quality, people with experience and guys from La Masia. Yes, they can compete to win titles.”

Marquez then added that the team was in very good hands with his former teammate, Xavi Hernandez in charge, saying: “As a teammate, you saw that he had the profile to be a coach. He has clear concepts, he is from the house and knows how to run a club. Barça is in the best hands.”

Talking about the acquisition of Robert Lewandowski, Marquez said: “He is a very complete striker and both inside and outside he shows himself to be a leader. When he scores goals, he is immediately giving instructions to improve, he applauds the efforts. Barça have done very well in hiring him.“

The former Barcelona defender also spoke about the plight of veteran stars Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba, who are struggling for minutes this term under Xavi.

“Difficult complicated. They are competitive people and knowing them, they want to play every week, but Xavi’s management with them is important there, the talks so that they don’t lose motivation. They have to contribute whether they play or not,” he said.

On the first team having five centre-backs, all of whom are right-footed, he said: “Barça is used to it and both Araujo and Koundé can play as right-backs.

“We have very good centre-backs, with experience. Araujo, for example, is physically very strong, very fast. And the good thing is that he still has significant room for improvement.”

Marquez also spoke very highly of club president Joan Laporta, saying: “He is a president with a lot of character and that makes him take risks, have a competitive squad and give what the club needs.”

Talking about his experience of playing with greats like Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi during his time at the club, Marquez said:

When asked if he dreams of coaching the Barcelona first team or the Mexican national team, Marquez replied:

“Obviously, when you enter this circle, you dream of coaching a big team, but for this, you have to work, gain experience and when luck strikes, be prepared. Barcelona and the national team are never told no.”

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