As Atlas rumors swirl, Márquez "not ruling out anything"

Rafael Márquez - June 29, 2011

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GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Reports in the Mexican press are linking New York Red Bulls midfielder/defender Rafa Márquez with a move back to the team of his boyhood, Guadalajara-based Club Atlas, although the Mexican international says there has been no official approach as yet.

"I would like to help Atlas get out of this situation it is in, but there has not been a formal approach,” Márquez said in a press conference on Monday to promote his charity here. “I am ready to listen to see what they propose and what the possibilities are. First, they have to get in contact. I’m not ruling out anything.”

For their part, the Red Bulls expect their Designated Player to return to the team next season.

“He has two-and-a-half more year[s] on his contract,” New York head coach Hans Backe said after last week’s Western Conference Semifinals second leg that saw the Red Bulls eliminated from the MLS Cup Playoffs. “Now I think he got [a two-game] suspension. But he will be in the team for next year.”

Márquez received a red card in the first leg of the Red Bulls’ Western semi against the LA Galaxy for his role in a postgame fracas. The Major League Soccer Disciplinary Committee subsequently handed the former Barcelona star a two-match ban, which will carry over into the 2012 regular season.

He was then left out of the Mexican national team squad for Friday’s friendly against Serbia, although Márquez says he is unaware that it was punishment for his behavior against the Galaxy.

The 32-year-old made his professional debut for Atlas back in 1996 and has regularly professed his desire to end his playing career with the club. Cash-strapped Atlas are also confident that "El Kaiser de Michoacán" will return.  

“I am sure that he will arrive,” Atlas vice president Víctor Flores Cosío told Mexican daily La Crónica de Hoy this past weekend. “I don’t know whether it will be for next season or later, but he will end his career with Atlas."

Atlas finished last in the Mexican league in the recently completed Apertura 2011 season and sit third from last in the Mexican relegation table. The team faces a fight next season to stay in Mexico’s top division, with coach Juan Carlos Chávez stating his desire to bring in players with experience.

“Of course I would like to have him here in Atlas, but he is in the United States,” Chávez told Univisión after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat against Santos. “We have to talk with the directors, to see if they can make the transfer happen, but I’m not dismissing it.”

Tom Marshall can be reached at tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com and on Twitter: @mexicoworldcup