Wednesday night into early Thursday morning is a time for joy for Pachuca.
The club, Mexico's oldest, is once again the continental champion after topping Tigres 1-0 in Wednesday's second leg for a 2-1 aggregate victory. The city of fewer than 300,000 and fans in the whole state of Hidalgo is in love with the sport, in love with the team and thrilled to see it on top once again.
The celebrations are deserved for the players, like Hirving Lozano who was superb throughout the whole tournament, willing Tuzos to victory. It's deserved for coach Diego Alonso, who put a priority on the tournament back in the summer and has backed up the talk by keeping players fresh and game-planning opponents efficiently. It's deserved for the fans, who have played no small part in Pachuca avoiding defeat for more than a year at home, with this victory the 33rd consecutive match unbeaten. And it's deserved for the directors, namely Grupo Pachuca president Jesus Martinez and vice president Andres Fassi, who have spearheaded a project that has seen Pachuca emerge not just as a flash in the pan but a consistent winner.
Pachuca's project calls for the development of young players like Lozano, Erick Gutierrez and Victor Guzman not only to find success as they've done with the 2016 Clausura title and now a CCL victory, but also to benefit the club financially as they sell them on to bigger clubs. And while the directors are celebrating as these words are being written, making the Club World Cup adds another layer to a summer transfer window that already was going to be full of tough decisions.
Who will remain to contest December's Club World Cup? Is it time for a number of Pachuca players to move on?
There's plenty of uncertainty. Goalkeeper Oscar "Conejo" Perez, at age 44, is likely to play one more tournament as he chases after Jorge Campos' appearance record but could retire. Center backs Oscar Murillo and Omar Gonzalez have been bedrocks and local reporters believe they're generating interest from elsewhere. Gutierrez's national team profile continues to rise, while U-20 eligible players Erick Aguirre, Roberto Alvarado and Francisco Figueroa are turning heads.
And the biggest decision, of course, is what to do with Lozano. A number of offers arrived during the winter with the team confirming that La Liga side Celta is among the latest suitors to offer a package for Lozano that not only would see them profit in the short-term but also retain a healthy percentage of his next fee as well.
"How we deal with the offers that arrive is a question for the directors, and if we're planning for the future, the best signing isn't a player from outside, but rather keeping the base of the team together," Alonso said in his post-match news conference.
Pachuca has sat on players it could've sold in the past, even before it held off on offers for Lozano in the most recent windows. Hector Herrera was well on the radar even before winning the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics after a standout showing earlier that year in the Toulon Tournament but he didn't move to Porto until the next year. Domestic interest in Jurgen Damm, who now is with Tigres and played in the final, and current Club America right back Paul Aguilar simmered before boiling over in later tournaments.
But when the right offers have come, Tuzos have sold quickly. What other choice does one of the league's 'small clubs' have? When West Ham came calling for Enner Valencia, he was moved on after just one tournament.
“It would be really great to play in the Club World Cup, but we’re going to think about the league now, our next match, and we’re going to work," Lozano said. “I don’t know," he continued, when asked if the Club World Cup qualification changed his timetable for a European move. "I think I have to keep working and wait for the chance to leave.”
Of course, Valencia had just boosted his profile with good showings at the 2014 World Cup, and plenty of players have done wonders for their own reputations at the Club World Cup. There is the dilemma for the club's directors. There's a chance that Lozano could put on a show against Real Madrid or Juventus and draw even more money than he would now - perhaps even with a chance at bringing another trophy to Hidalgo on the way. Or, things could all go south. The oft-fouled player could suffer a more serious injury than the ones he's returned from in the last two tournaments with and flame out.
Either way, the director will try to push those thoughts out of their minds tonight - as they should. But it won't be long until they're making serious decisions about the club's future.