It’s time to bring Carlos Vela back into the Mexican national team.
After the once Arsenal prospect skipped the 2012 Olympic Games to focus on his club situation, turning down a call or two from the full national team as well, I was one of the first to suggest that he needed to pay – or repay – his dues, before being invited to wear the green and/or black Mexico jersey again.
But after getting off to a blazing start in league play this year in Spain, those dues have probably been paid back ahead of schedule.
Actually, forget dues, this guy just needs to be on the national team.
Seven goals in 17 games plus three assists is bang up work in what amounts to the best league in the world for many.
Those totals put Vela among the top 10 goal scorers in La Liga at the end of the calendar year, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, and Falcao. In fact, just a hat trick more would place the Mexican behind only those three on the La Liga Pichichi chart.
That’s an impressive enough feat in and of itself. But added to Vela’s success last season in Spain, and in general since leaving the jealous clutches of Arsenal, it should be more than enough to get him back into the conversation for El Tri.
Of course, it’s still complicated. Vela hurt a lot of feelings by turning down calls to El Tri and the Olympic team.
It was a move that could easily have damaged his career. But the calculated risk paid off despite missing out on a gold medal. Assuring nothing got in the way of a permanent summer move to Real Sociedad has turned out to be a key crossroads in the once flagging career of one Mexico’s still young and bright prospects.
Vela has proved this season that he’s no longer the wide-eyed youngster learning the ropes in Europe. Instead, he’s a polished product, capable of making a difference at the highest levels of the game, and sought after by even bigger clubs across the continent.
With a full slate on the table for 2013, that’s too much for Jose Manuel de la Torre to continue to overlook, even given Vela’s past indiscretions related to the national team. Heading into 2013, El Tri is long on attacking options but somewhat short on true forwards.
Javier Hernandez is an obvious choice, but alongside him things quickly become less clear. Oribe Peralta has proved a poor pairing for Hernandez, and De la Torre prefers the likes of Marco Fabian and Gio Dos Santos in more reserved attacking roles.
That leaves Aldo Di Nigris as the only other experienced forward, a position that wasn’t terribly deep on the Olympic team either, despite all the success achieved by El Tri in London.
Luckily, Vela has reemerged as the perfect solution - a more mobile variant alongside Chicharito who can move out wide if need be - in a year in which El Tri may well need to step up its play even further with the grueling Hexagonal and top level Confederations Cup on the docket.
With Vela clearly among the growing ranks of El Tri’s world class performers, he can’t be overlooked any longer, no matter how contentious his recent national team past.
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