New York Red Bulls release Rafa Marquez

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There is but one question to ask now that the sometimes-ridiculous, ever-eventful Rafa Marquez era is history around Red Bull Arena: What took so freakin’ long?

The Red Bulls announced the release of their controversial defender Thursday morning.

The team’s record with Marquez on the field, 19-9-16, does speak well of his talents. We should expect as much from a man making $4.6 million this year; his salary was Major League Soccer’s second-highest in 2012 after Red Bulls teammate Thierry Henry.

But anyone who watched Marquez play, anyone who witnessed his self-centered shenanigans, anyone who winced at his disrespectful comments about teammates, could not help but wonder if the former Mexican international’s presence was not undermining the team’s larger pursuits?

It seems like a reasonable supposition that they were. (And you wonder what stories might tumble out of the Red Bulls locker room now that Marquez is gone?)

Recent reports have circulated this year that Marquez, 33, is close to signing a two-year deal with Leon in Mexico. With Thursday’s release, he is free to do so.

From Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh:

This decision has been made in the best interests of both parties concerned. Rafa has accomplished a great deal during his career and is a top quality player. We want to thank him for his service to the Red Bulls and wish him the best of luck in the next stage of his career.”

Henry, by the way, consistently defended Marquez. The French attacker insisted the team needed Marquez’s passing and sophisticated distribution out of the back for the best chances of claiming an MLS title. Which may have been true; we’ll never know. Because in an action that fairly typified Marquez’s messy time with the organization, the former Barcelona man got himself thrown out the team’s close, second-leg playoff contest against D.C. United.