Tom Marshall: Three naturalized players that can help El Tri

Three Liga MX veterans born in South America could give El Tri a much-needed boost if they opted to capitalize on Mexican passports and link up with the national team.
News that Argentina-born duo Christian Gimenez and Lucas Lobos are now Mexican citizens has opened the intriguing debate of which foreign-born players could contribute to Mexico’s national team.

The timing of new Liga MX rules stating foreign-born players count as Mexicans after five consecutive years playing in the country has been a cruel twist of fate, coinciding as it does with a nose-dive in the fortunes of the national team.

Clubs have encouraged players who qualify to gain Mexican citizenship in order to free up one of the five foreigner spots each Liga MX side is allowed. The natural knock-on effect is that the Mexican national team depth pool has got a little deeper.

The truth is that a few of the newly (or about-to-be) naturalized players could potentially add to the quality of the national team squad whether El Tri is in form or not. The fact that coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s side is performing so poorly only puts that in sharper focus.

There will be the same old debate about whether naturalized players should be allowed or not, but it is the coach’s job to pick the best available players, regardless of whether they were born on the banks of the Rio de la Plata or in the barrio of Tepito.

Here are three that could immediately contribute ahead of Brazil 2014 and should be given the opportunity:

Lucas Lobos - Club: Tigres, Age: 31, Born: La Plata, Argentina

The creative midfielder has quite simply been one of the best players in the Liga MX in recent years and is the star performer at Tigres. He received his Mexican citizenship paperwork earlier this month.

Possessing excellent technical ability, Lobos both assists and scores, as his 24 goals in his last 50 games for Tigres shows. He can also run at players and is an expert set-piece taker, scoring regularly from direct free kicks.

Lobos’ presence would open up options for De la Torre, with the Argentina-born player able to play in a free role behind a Javier Hernandez, or, if Chepo decides to set up a little more offensively, in central midfield alongside a more defensive-minded player and behind two central strikers.

The former Cadiz player’s quality, professionalism and leadership would likely dissipate the ferocity of the debate of his call-up slightly, as would the fact Lobos would be a starter for El Tri at present, especially with Carlos Vela on the outside.

A potential partnership combining Lobos’ vision and passing with Hernandez’s movement in the final third is mouthwatering.

The one question mark is the player himself, who hasn’t yet explicitly admitted he would play for El Tri.

Christian “Chaco” Gimenez – Club: Cruz Azul, Age: 32, Born: Chaco, Argentina

Gimenez received his citizenship on Tuesday and wasted no time in telling the media of how proud he is to be Mexican and how he would love to get a call-up to the national team.

The Cruz Azul man has even sung the national anthem live on a radio show recently.

Can he contribute? If he shows the form he did in the back end of the Clausura season, there is no doubt Chaco would be in the national team mix.

In essence, he would be going up against the likes of Marco Fabian and Angel Reyna for a spot in the squad for Brazil. All three are versatile and can play either behind a center forward or on the wings, but Gimenez would be slightly ahead at present, if just because he is the more consistent performer and is one of the most respected pros in the Liga MX.

Lucas Silva – Club: Monterrey, Age: 28, Born: Miguel Calmon, Brazil

It’s been 10 years since Silva arrived in Mexico’s second division and it has been a slow ascent to his present club Monterrey, via seven Ascenso MX sides and Liga MX outfits Puebla and Toluca.

The 1.88-meter tall midfielder has a physical presence that few in the current Mexican player pool possess and contributes either in the center or on the right with a high work-rate, ability to get up and down the pitch and goals.

Silva hasn’t yet announced whether he has the requisite papers to play for Mexico, but he is in the process and Chepo (assuming he remains in charge) currently has no-one with Silva’s skill-set currently available. His direct play would be a good option off the bench in a tight game.

Like Lobos, Silva has not explicitly stated that he would play for El Tri, but with a Mexican wife, kids born in the North American country and a World Cup coming up in his home nation, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t accept the opportunity.