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Barcelona release Rafael Marquez

The Spanish champions announce that they have reached an agreement to release Marquez from his contract that was due to expire in 2012.

Rafael Marquez, the Mexico captain, is leaving Barcelona on a free transfer. The Spanish champions announced yesterday that they have reached an agreement to release Marquez from his contract that was due to expire in 2012. Since arriving from Monaco in 2003, Marquez has helped Barcelona win the Champions League twice, four Spanish league titles, a European Super Cup and a Copa del Rey. Marquez made 242 appearances for the Catalans. He has been linked with a move to the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer.

Lionel Messi will take part in Barca's pre-season tour of Asia, but the club's eight World Cup winners have been rested. The Barcelona players that helped Spain win the World Cup will miss friendlies against the All-Stars from South Korea's K-League in Seoul on Wednesday and against Guoan in Beijing's Bird's Nest Olympic stadium four days later. They are Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, David Villa, Pedro, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta.

Meanwhile, Nicolas Pareja, the Argentine defender, has joined the Russian club Spartak Moscow on a four-year deal from Barca's city neighbours Espanyol. The 26-year-old South American departs after two seasons with the Spanish club. Sami Khedira has signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid after passing a medical yesterday. The Germany midfielder joined the Spanish club from Stuttgart. Catania's match with the Greek side Iraklis was abandoned because of players fighting, the second pre-season friendly in three days involving a Seria A side to be halted by violence.

The referee suspended Friday's game after 70 minutes following a succession of bad fouls and scuffles, Catania said in a statement yesterday. Cagliari's friendly with Corsican rivals Bastia on Wednesday was abandoned after 75 minutes for the same reason. * AP

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