With the 2012 Apertura on the horizon, a number of Mexican clubs made significant roster moves on a busy draft day.In terms of anti-labor collusion, the peculiarities of the Mexican draft rival only the goings on in U.S. professional sports in terms of taking away its players' freedom to move. This year alone, over a hundred players moved in just one afternoon, before the clock ticked to zero and the transfer window for Mexican players closed.
This year’s draft was remarkable in both volume and value of the transfers that took place, as well as the clubs that were most active. One hundred and four players moved on to new clubs Wednesday, and a total of 368 million pesos changed hands. Not groundbreaking in the scheme of Europe’s 100 million-plus euro transfers, but certainly nothing to sneeze at either, unless perhaps you own one of Mexico’s top football clubs.
While over a hundred transfers is a lot by historical standards -- 2008, 2009 and 2010 all saw less than 70 deals -- the general feeling was that transfer action has been slowing relative to recent years. Among the factors referenced by disgruntled managers who didn’t get the players they wanted were the sky-high prices being put on Mexican stars, hardly a surprise given the burgeoning interest for Mexican players abroad, which has to be driving up market prices for veterans and young prospects alike.
Some LMF -- pardon, Liga MX -- officials, at least, tried to make the argument that fewer transfers are needed these days because teams are producing so many young players that getting more mature castoffs is no longer a necessity.
That’s a nice sounding argument to posit for the leaders of a league set to make an assault on youth development initiatives, but the reality doesn’t seem to bear it out. When one of the more active teams in the market is none other than Chivas, a long time standard for Mexican youth development, it’s harder to argue that clubs are doing all they can to fill their gaps with home grown talent. Pachuca, another club that has prided itself on self-produced talent over the years, put itself in the same boat in Cancun, making several notable acquisitions for new manager Hugo Sanchez, all of whom could crack the starting lineup come August.
It’s little coincidence that Pachuca and Chivas were probably the two teams that made out best on Wednesday in terms of noticeably changing their starting elevens. Pachuca added four serviceable players, including the likes of Jorge Hernandez, Alberto Medina and Nestor Calderon, who will contribute heavily in the Apertura. Chivas may have gotten the midfield quality it was missing in the person of Luis Perez, while Rafael Marquez Lugo came at a price high enough to put a wait-and-see tag on his arrival.
Also helping its cause substantially was newly ascended Leon, which added no less than 16 players in all including what should be a relatively solid veteran centerback pairing in Duilio Davino and Jonny Magallon. Relegation-threatened Queretaro tried the quantity over quality approach in adding sixteen players while shipping out just two, but without much quality in the numbers we’ll have to wait to see how that turns out in the colonial city.
Other notable activity came from Morelia, which brought in eleven players and shipped out nine, including two stars: Marquez and current national teamer Gerardo Lugo, who went to Santos. The champion continued its pattern of limiting buys to a few important pieces, which makes sense given its current roster and recent success.
Teams for which limited activity made less sense include Cruz Azul, which walked away angry after not finding any bargains to its liking, presumably decided on testing the foreign market, and relegation-threatened Atlas will pin much of its hope for salvation -- perhaps too much -- on former Tigres star Hector Mancilla and once-upon-a-time Mexican international Matias Vuoso.
At least the draft can be counted on for a dazzling array of strategies, which will give plenty to think about over the course of the coming season as the approach taken on draft day will help determine many of the successes and failures of clubs across Mexico in the Apertura 2012.
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