Cuauhtemoc Blanco y Rafa Marquez

World Cup: Mexican icons Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Rafa Marquez trade barbs over leadership abilities

An interesting war of words has developed this week between two of the Mexican national team’s most iconic players, both of whom made their fare share of headlines during their time in Major League Soccer.

The two parties involved – former Chicago Fire playmaker Cuauhtémoc Blanco and New York Red Bulls midfielder/defender Rafa Márquez – have quibbled in the press and on Twitter in recent days leading up to Mexico’s international friendly against Nigeria in Atlanta on Wednesday night (8:30 pm ET, UniMas), each one calling out the other’s character.

The first shots were fired by the 41-year-old Blanco, who took to the airwaves of Jorge Ramos y Su Banda on ESPN Deportes Radio earlier this week and took issue with the leadership abilities of Márquez, who will serve as El Tri’s captain during the World Cup this summer.

“I’ve known Rafa for a long time and he does not have the ability to speak to the players, to speak on the field,” Blanco said. “And we are lacking someone with more … you know that I'm talking about, the two coconuts we have down there. You need two guys who can talk to the players and yell at them.”

A veteran of three World Cups and more than 100 career appearances with Mexico, Blanco spent two-and-a-half seasons with the Fire from 2007-09 before returning south of the border to play for Veracruz in 2010. He has bounced around ever since and currently plays for second-division side Lobos de la BUAP, but he said he wants to return to the Liga MX ranks and might play after June, when he initially said he would retire.

The 35-year-old Márquez, meanwhile, has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts with the Mexican national team since the group’s perilous run in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, which nearly eliminated them from the World Cup. He captained the team during their intra-continental playoff series against New Zealand last November, and scored his 14th career goal in the team’s win in the opener.

Márquez spent two and a half polarizing seasons in New York, appearing in 44 regular-season matches before he parted ways with the club at the end of the 2012 season and joined Mexican side León. He has appeared in 116 career matches with Mexico.

Asked about Blanco’s comments on Tuesday in Atlanta, Márquez eagerly took his shot.

“What can you expect from Cuauhtémoc Blanco?” he said. “If you’d have told me that [the criticism] had come from an educated or serious person who is an example off the field, maybe [I would take it].”

Mexican national team coach Miguel Herrera also stood behind his captain.

“I see Rafa shouting on the pitch, I see in the locker room how everyone has respect for him and it is a respect he has earned on a world stage, not what he has done in Mexico,” Herrera said.

Blanco promptly responded on his Twitter feed on Wednesday, inciting there was some kind of fallout between Márquez and the Mexican team during the 2007 Copa América tournament in Venezuela, when El Tri finished third.

“To Rafa Márquez who has said that I'm not a serious person and I'm not educated, I say to him if he doesn't consider it a lack of seriousness having your bags packed before playing a game and leaving us in the Copa America in Venezuela,” Blanco tweeted.

“As for the education part, I don't think he went to Harvard,” he added. “I'm a man of the people and a proud Mexican.”

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