Guido Pizarro is trying to focus on the here and now, but that might be hard for the Sevilla midfielder.
While playing with Tigres in Liga MX, he earned his first call-ups to the Argentina national team and eventually made his debut in March of last year. Pizarro moved to Sevilla in the summer to join Eduardo Berizzo's side at the club where new Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli had just left. It seemed like the 2018 World Cup was a possibility for Pizarro.
Things have changed.
First, Pizarro struggled with an injury. To make a bad situation worse, Berizzo was diagnosed with cancer and then fired one week after returning from surgery. Now, he's struggling to find consistency under new boss Vincenzo Montella.
Still, the 28-year-old is keeping an open mind and, after entering as a substitute in Sevilla's first leg draw with Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, is hoping to be on the field at Old Trafford celebrating a berth in the next round.
A few months ago, that seemed unlikely. Rumors came out from Monterrey that Pizarro was set for a return to the league where he'd twice been named to the Best XI and had won a pair of league titles with Tigres. Those rumors had legs, Pizarro said, but he's focused on forging ahead in Spain.
“The reality is that what happened is what already came out. There was the chance to return to Tigres and with the departure of Berizzo, who was who had brought me here, it was a real possibility at one time," Pizarro told Goal. "The truth is I’m really happy (at Sevilla), very thankful to the club and as I’ve always said I have to give everything I have in me to support where I’m at now."
While he's happy where he is, it's clear Pizarro has fond memories of northern Mexico and his time with Tuca Ferretti's team. He said he would "never" play for another team in Mexico but left the door open for a return to the club that brought him to Mexico from Lanus.
"Tigres is always going to be in my heart. God will say when I return, but meanwhile I want to enjoy and take advantage of where I am," he said.
Pizarro may have his eyes on an eventual return to La Sultana del Norte, but plenty of players have made headlines in Mexico by jumping from South America to MLS. Others, like Monterrey-born Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos, left Europe for the United States rather than head for clubs like Tigres where Andre-Pierre Gignac, Javier Aquino and Enner Valencia have landed after playing for European clubs.
It seems like a debate that will take place more and more with MLS continuing to grow. For now, the midfielder sees Liga MX as a better product, but says both will continue to experience improvement and eventually become big players on the global stage.
"It isn’t detrimental to it. Liga MX has been growing a lot in the last few years and MLS also is growing," Pizarro said. "I feel that right now Liga MX is several steps above, but hopefully they keep growing. They have the economic power and infrastructure like other important federations. It will take some time, but they’ll end up being important leagues."
Pizarro was united with another player who was linked with a move to Mexico in January, with Miguel Layun joining Sevilla during the winter transfer window. Layun is one of Mexico's most consistent players but was struggling to get time at Porto. Tigres' rival Monterrey reportedly hoped to woo the player, but as Pizarro pointed out a move to Sevilla puts Layun a cut above many of his international teammates.
"I thought it was fantastic. He’s a player with a lot of experience who has come in from a big team like Porto," he said. "The reality is of the Mexicans playing, he’s the only one who plays in one of Europe’s biggest clubs. I’m wishing him the best of luck and hope he can stay here for many years. As a teammate and someone who knows what Mexico is as a country, he represents his country well, represents his culture well with the good person that he is and how he gets along with everyone. He does the country proud."
Pizarro would love to do the same for Argentina in Russia, but even as that dream slips away he's trying to stay present.
"I try to avoid thinking about it. I try to live each day at Sevilla, play well and then, God will say if I return," he said.
We'll also have to wait and see if someone or something brings him back to Mexico, where he's still loved by fans and clearly still has love for the country.