Player Spotlight: Miguel Layun a potential breakout star for Mexico

After a rough few years on the pitch in the Mexican and Italian leagues, the defender has excelled under El Tri national team coach Miguel Herrera.
Everything used to be Miguel Layun’s fault, but now he’s one of the go-to players in the Mexican national team when it is in need of inspiration.

The #TodoesculpadeLayun (Everything is Layun’s fault) hashtag on social networks exploded in May 2011 and was used to cruelly focus the attention of Club America’s woes at that time onto Layun.

Layun’s career was on a slippery downhill slope back then. He was enduring poor form with America and had already struggled during a two-year stint with Atalanta in Italy, where he played in the league just twice, becoming the first Mexican to feature in Serie A.

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The criticism was ferocious and deeply affected Layun and his family.

“I wanted to stop people and say, ‘What is your problem? If you want, we can sort this out by other means,’ but as a public person you can’t challenge anyone to a fight,’” explained Layun in a recent interview with La Aficion, also revealing: “At home, I cried.”

Layun’s wife has given television interviews in which she has stated the couple avoided public places like restaurants to escape the abuse and she wouldn’t go to America’s Estadio Azteca wearing a Layun shirt on match days for the same reason.

The turning point in Layun’s career can be pinpointed to current Mexico coach Miguel Herrera taking over at Club America ahead of the Clausura 2012. With Herrera’s appointment, another chance came along for the Cordoba, Veracruz native. The now 25-year-old hasn’t looked back since.

“Miguel is a very fast player, with a very strong mentality because he recovered from all those critics,” Herrera is quoted as saying this week, also in La Aficion.

Layun has developed alongside Herrera, from winning the Liga MX Clausura 2013 championship to being on the brink of debuting in the World Cup. And not just that: Layun has become one of Mexico’s key weapons heading into Brazil 2014, as the left wing-back in El Tri’s 5-3-2 system.

At the World Cup, Layun told reporters in Mexico’s camp in Santos this week that he is aiming high.

“I don’t visualize one (World Cup goal), but more,” said a confident and ambitious Layun. “My minimum target is three goals.”

A cruciate ligament injury as a teenager almost convinced Layun to quit the game entirely, but the Mexican national team is reaping the benefits of him deciding to continue.

The two-footed player is fast, deceptively strong, reasonably technical and can cut inside from the left flank and shoot with his right foot from distance with devastating effect. He also doesn’t stop flying up and down the flank.

Layun has a European Union passport, which opens the door to a move back across the Atlantic much more easily. He also speaks English well.

If there is a glaring weakness, it is defensively. Layun can get turned inside out at times by the opposition and isn’t the best at marking, but Herrera’s three-center back system provides cover and accentuates his attacking ability.

Layun showed in Mexico’s preparation matches that he is primed to succeed for El Tri at this World Cup.

It has been a remarkable turnaround and it is to the player’s credit that he sees the humor (and possibly a few pesos) in past miseries.

He has set up his own clothing company, named “Todo Es Culpa de Layun," and even wrote on his Twitter on Mexico’s equivalent of April Fools' Day back in December 2012 that he could no longer handle the critics and would be closing his account.

Later the same day, he stated he would never close it, and that it had been a joke.

Layun has already had the last laugh in Mexico. This World Cup is his platform to bigger things.