Carlos Vela would probably admit that he didn’t have his best game under the steep stands of the Estadio Vicente Calderon for Real Sociedad on Saturday. In fairness, Atletico Madrid was immense in its 4-0 victory, not allowing the Basque side or its Mexican forward a chance to really get going.
Looking on was Mexico coach Miguel Herrera, currently in Europe to scout and catch up with potential El Tri participants in this summer’s World Cup.
The 45-year-old can’t have failed to be impressed with the intense atmosphere and the pregame tributes after the passing of Atleti legend Luis Aragones, or Diego Simeone’s current side.
Before entering the Vicente Calderon, Herrera told reporters that a call-up for Vela “will depend on him” and the two are scheduled, according to reports from Spain, to sit down on Monday to thrash out the situation.
This appears to be the point of no return in the telenovela, and a crucial moment in Mexico’s 2014 World Cup story. If Herrera doesn’t get a clear and unequivocal ‘si’ from the 24-year-old when the two meet, Mexico will confront an already substantial challenge of reaching the World Cup quarterfinal for the first time since 1986 without its best player.
The Vela/El Tri saga has carried on ever since Vela made it clear in March 2011 that he would not be accepting call-ups for the Mexico national team.
That came off the back of problems of ill-discipline when he appeared to show dissent towards then-coach Efrain Flores just as he was about to enter the field in a September 2010 friendly against Colombia.
A few days after that game, reports surfaced about a party the players had and Vela found himself suspended from the national team for six months along with Efrain Juarez.
The next time he appeared, under Jose Manuel de la Torre, Vela played less than an hour over two games in March 2011. And he hasn’t played for Mexico since, even turning down the chance to play at the London 2012 Olympics.
The first of those events came at a time when Vela was in his early 20s, when he was struggling for playing time with Arsenal and still trying to forge a career for himself on the other side of the Atlantic.
His annoyance at those events and at how he was portrayed in Mexico was understandable, but it seemed inconceivable that Vela would hold out so long on the outside of the national team. The overriding feeling was that the former Chivas youth team player would see sense at some point in the 2014 World Cup qualification process and reintegrate himself into the setup.
Now there is only one chance left. Herrera is very much a players’ manager, speaks in a forthright manner and will be direct in his dealings with Vela, telling him exactly what is required: 100 percent dedication and commitment.
Herrera already has the blessing of Mexico’s senior players in calling up Vela, as he stated last month when the squad was together for the 4-0 victory over Korea Republic.
Now, it really is up to Vela to draw a line under the past and resume a national team career that still tpromises so much.