After winning back-to-back Liga MX titles, the sky is the limit for Leon, provided it can keep most of its top players.
After La Fiera secured historic consecutive titles following a Liga MX final victory over Pachuca on Sunday, Herrero and struggling Chivas are unlikely to get much success.
Leon is already where Chivas would like to be in many ways, blending exciting football with winning titles in front of passionate fans and a full stadium.
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The starting team rolls off the tongue of anyone who passes anything more than a fleeting glance at the Liga MX. Luis Montes, Carlos Pena, Rafa Marquez, William Yarbrough, Jose Juan Vazquez, ‘Nacho’ Gonzalez, Jonny Magallon and Mauro Boselli have all etched their names into the club’s and Mexican soccer’s folklore by securing back-to-back championships for the first time since Pumas in 2004.
Fans and pundits may complain that Leon fielded reserves and youngsters for a substantial portion of the regular season to concentrate on the Copa Libertadores, but when it qualified for the playoffs, Leon regrouped and showed its quality.
In the quarterfinals, Cruz Azul – the dominant team in the regular season – was knocked out, followed by second-place Toluca in the semis.
In the final, Pachuca did shock La Fiera 3-2 in the first leg, but the team from Guanajuato state had enough maturity and drive to manage the game and get the victory in the second match.
Leon produced a chance within 30 seconds of kickoff on Sunday. Gustavo Matosas’ side seeks to attack both home and away and knows only one way of playing. Even when Gonzalez headed in the winning goal in the 112th minute, there was no substantial effort to retreat into a shell and hold onto the lead with only eight minutes left.
The exciting, almost fantasy brand of soccer Leon has displayed means Chivas are unlikely to be the only club with intentions to mine Leon’s quarry of talent.
Top of the list is Matosas, who has intentions of managing in Europe one day and may well receive tempting offers. With the success South American coaches are having at present in Europe’s top leagues, it would be no surprise if he was to try his luck abroad. He would guarantee an exciting side that attracts fans to the stadium, even if the Libertadores did raise some questions about whether he could do with a dose of ugly pragmatism in his philosophy now and then.
Surely there would be one or two Spanish or Portuguese first division clubs willing to take a punt on the Uruguayan?
Pena has stated that he is well aware European clubs are following his progress and is set on moving to the other side of the Atlantic.
Montes is more mature and rounded as a player than the younger Pena and was Leon’s driving force in the playoff run. It would be no great surprise if he got offers from abroad, especially if he starts games for Mexico in the World Cup.
Then there is captain Marquez, who has recently reiterated he would like to retire with first club Atlas and may see this as the perfect chance after his success with Leon.
U.S. eligible Yarbrough is a bright goalkeeping talent, but is still developing and is more likely to stay put in Leon, as is Vazquez.
But while the offers will come and there is the acceptance from Leon that players should be allowed to leave if good deals from Europe arrive, Matosas was adamant immediately after the game that the squad needs strengthening.
With the money Carlos Slim – the world’s second richest person, according to Forbes, and the wealthiest football club owner anywhere – has, there really aren’t any limitations on where the club can go from here, even if one or two do leave.
The key is keeping Matosas.