Player Spotlight: Sanchez showing no signs of slowing down

The goalkeeper just turned 40 and, based on current form with Santos Laguna, remains a force to be reckoned with.
The milestones for iconic Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez have come thick and fast in recent months.

There was the Santos Laguna player’s 40th birthday back in September, followed by the inevitable questions about just how long he could go on. Then, on Oct. 30, came the 20th anniversary of his debut in Mexico’s first division with Atlas.

But Sanchez isn’t mulling over what will happen when he hangs up his gloves – even though he has completed his coaching qualifications. Instead, Sanchez is thinking about winning the Apertura title and the Mexican national team, after his head was turned following the widespread suggestions that his experience could once again be a useful commodity in a squad that has clearly lacked it this year.

The in-form goalkeeper told Goal he was and is “very much at peace” with what he has achieved with the national team, but can’t help thinking of a potential return that could lead to a fourth World Cup.

“My name got brought up a little while ago for the last games,” explained Sanchez on Friday on the phone from Torreon. “How excited I got … those beautiful moments I lived through alongside so many teammates.”

It is not just experience that Sanchez would bring to the national team. He has been a key figure behind guiding Los Guerreros to a second-place finish in the Liga MX regular season and the semifinals of the Apertura.

If the new Mexico coach wants a vocal goalkeeper who commands his area, is brave, isn’t afraid to come and collect the ball and wills his teammates on, there is still no Mexican ‘keeper better than Sanchez.

The man himself, however, is backing Cruz Azul’s Jesus Corona for the job as El Tri’s No. 1 next summer in Brazil.

“I think all of (the ‘keepers) have a chance of playing but, on merit, Chuy (Corona) has had some great years,” explained Sanchez. “It’s true that in the last games he made mistakes, but he’s a guy who has been substitute in World Cups and it is his turn, it seems like his moment.”

Sanchez has become a figurehead for a golden period at Santos Laguna - where he has won two league titles, finished runner-up three times and twice reached the final of the CONCACAF Champions League – since joining in 2007. Chivas have slipped the other way. Since “San Oswaldo” left right after lifting the Apertura 2006 title as captain, the Rebano Sagrado have managed to reach just one major final and are on the brink of the relegation battle.

The first time he went back to Chivas after signing for Santos Laguna, fake money was thrown at Sanchez, boos hailed down from the stands and the general feeling was that he betrayed the club in search of more money. Ever since there has been a spattering of boos when he takes to the field in Guadalajara, although last time he was applauded off, with Chivas fans perhaps coming to appreciate what he did for the club and the more successful times of years gone by.

But the player with humble roots in a working class Guadalajara neighborhood is now looking to set the record straight on why he left Chivas, after years of keeping silent on the issue.

“I never thought I’d leave Chivas,” admitted Sanchez. “The truth is that the Chivas administration caused me to leave because they wanted to modify my contract to a lower amount … after having become champions.”

“They forced me to open the door to other teams to look for me,” he continued. “That is the truth and I’ve only told it a few times, but now is the time to say it.”

It is a statement that will likely reverberate considering Chivas’ current situation, but even at the time Sanchez’s move did seem out the blue. Los Guerreros were then in a relegation battle, playing in an outdated stadium and a long way from the outfit they have become today.

In fact, it was only in the last game of the Clausura 2007 regular season that a 2-0 win over Cruz Azul guaranteed Santos Laguna’s survival in the first division.

Sanchez has become the embodiment of that revival and, while he never thought he would leave Chivas, he’s found a home in the northern city of Torreon that, even if he jokes about it being “freezing” in winter, has provided him with stability and trophy-winning challenges in the latter stages of his career.

“Few people give (Santos Laguna) the credit it deserves because it is a very regional club,” said Sanchez. “It’s a club that does things right, we’re a family and we all get on, from the president to the gentleman who sweeps the floor.”

Whether he likes it or not, the end of Sanchez’s career can’t be too long off, but you wouldn’t put another title or two or even making the World Cup squad past him, especially with the form he is in.

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