Tom Marshall: Five Liga MX players ready to move to Europe

Some of Liga MX's top performers could make the jump to Europe once the transfer window opens.
The January transfer window is about to open in Europe and teams in the top leagues will be looking for reinforcements from all corners of the world. That includes Mexico, where there are number of interesting players in different stages of development that could do a job.
Here are five that have a chance of hopping across the pond next month.

Carlos Pena

“Gullit” Pena has the physical attributes to instantly compete at a good-level European club, with his large frame and exceptional stamina over the full 90 minutes.

The Leon midfielder has also become a much more rounded player over the last 12 months, with improvement in his distribution and positioning adding to his ability to get goals from midfield.
The figurehead of Leon’s run to the Apertura 2013 title, the 23-year-old has grown with the club from the second division title and is at the right age to make the move. The possibility of improvement is latent and Pena seems to have the right attitude and maturity to make a European move work.
Pena won’t be cheap and his poor performance at the Gold Cup last summer is a negative, but teams out there may just think he’s worth a punt ahead of next summer’s World Cup, when the midfielder is very likely to be one of Mexico’s mainstays under Miguel Herrera.
His price after Brazil 2014 may just improve significantly.
Oribe Peralta
Put simply, if a club wants a striker that is ready to go, can provide at least a couple of seasons guaranteed service and has some money to spend, it couldn’t really do any better than sign the internationally-proven Oribe Peralta.
Peralta has said he won’t make sacrifices to move to Europe in terms of wages, but the CONCACAF player of the season if a ready-made goal machine for a club out there.
The fact he turns 30 in January may put many clubs off, but 52 goals in his last 78 games in the Liga MX is an astonishing ratio and one that few players have historically done, considering the consistency. Jackson Martinez scored 33 goals in 55 games for Chiapas and took to the Portuguese league with consummate ease. There’s little reason that Peralta couldn’t make a similar impact.
Jefferson Montero
The Ecuadorian international could be part of perhaps the most exciting teams in the Copa Libertadores next season at Morelia, with Aldo Leao, Hector Mancilla and Duvier Riascos providing a mouthwatering offense.
But Montero is already proven in Europe after a spell with Real Betis, is now hitting his prime at 24 and has reportedly garnered interest from the likes of Arsenal. And for those who regularly watch him, that is little surprise. The winger rips defenses apart, makes assists and scores goals.
It seems like only a matter of time before Montero does move and while Morelia has stated he won’t be leaving this transfer window, the club has other attacking talent and European suitors may not want to waste any more time in chasing him.
Raul Jimenez
The Club America striker’s form slipped slightly towards the end of 2013, but that was predominantly down to a busy year, which included reaching two finals with Las Aguilas, the Gold Cup, Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifiers.
Physically and mentality, that is a lot of high-pressure games for the 22-year-old in one season and the striker has responded, most noticeably by saving Mexico’s World Cup qualifying campaign with a spectacular overhead kick against Panama.
Jimenez is one of the few Olympic gold winners to impress since London 2012, has exceptional touch for someone who is 6-foot-3 tall and has a good soccer brain.
Yet there is also room for improvement, most obviously in his decision-making in the final third. But rather than that being simply a negative, it also means Jimenez could be nurtured by a European club to become a top player, possibly to sell on.
In a similar way to Jimenez, Mexican striker Alan Pulido deserves a mention for his impressive performances at Tigres. But the America player is better prepared for a European move simply because he has national team experience and has been a starter at America for the last 18 months.
Miguel Layun
It’s difficult to overstate how impressive the 25-year-old wing back has been in 2013, especially considering how criticized Layun was before Miguel Herrera arrived as coach of the club.
Layun is still the only Mexican to play in Serie A, possesses a level of athleticism that is rare in Mexican football and has been one of the best players in the Liga MX over the last 12 months.
The America player is fast, skillful, can put in good crosses, score goals and can get up and down the wing for the full 90 minutes.
If there is a weakness, it is in the defensive third and there is still a question mark over whether Layun can operate at the top level as a fullback in a back four.
Given the attacking threat Layun provides, it may just be a risk worth taking for a European club.