Some huge news out of Barcelona on Tuesday as it's been confirmed that Sergi Barjuán, one year into his two-year deal, has been relieved of his duties as manager of Barcelona Atlètic (the Barça B team). According to MARCA, he'll be replaced by former Barcelona defender and Mexico international Rafa Márquez.
Barjuán guided Barça B to a respectable ninth-place finish in Spain's third division last year, and he also had the unenviable task of being the senior side's interim manager for three matches following the sacking of Ronald Koeman. Given the financial situation at Barça, the club turned to its B team members frequently last campaign with minutes for Gavi, Ez Abde, Ilias Akhomach, Alejandro Balde, Álvaro Sanz, Mika Màrmol and Estanis Pedrola.
Gavi's made the permanent step up to the senior squad, but Márquez is now tasked with the development of those highly regarded prospects as well as young monster Fabio Blanco and incoming Turkish phenom Emre Demir.
The decision has Xavi's imprint all over it. The Barça boss played alongside Márquez for seven seasons at the Camp Nou, a period that saw the Blaugrana capture four LaLiga titles, two Champions League crowns and one Copa del Rey (the 2008-09 treble). Márquez was a world-class ball-playing center back but also strong in the tackle and air despite standing only 6 feet 0 inches. When there are questions over Barcelona's tiki-taka philosophy in the modern age of rock n' roll football, Márquez stands as an example of how you can have a bit of both.
Márquez went on to play for the New York Red Bulls, León, Hellas Verona and Atlas while accumulating 147 caps for Mexico and representing his country at five World Cup finals before working briefly as Atlas' sporting president. Recently the 43-year-old has been helping provide commentary for El Tri matches on TUDN, so this represents Márquez's first step into management. It's a big one.
It's a massive opportunity for El Káiser de Michoacán, and another huge test of our collective Concacaf mind in Europe. We're all counting on you.