Pulido saga must end in playing time

The former Tigres forward showed promise, but his career has stalled. He must find a club where he can play if he hopes to develop into a star, writes Jon Arnold.

Alan Pulido was a rising star in Mexican soccer. But now? Well, when's the last time you saw Pulido play? When's the last time anyone saw Pulido play? 

Fans paying very close attention may have seen the 15 minutes he has logged with Olympiakos in the Greek cup this season. He scored once in six league matches with Levadiakos before that. The last time he was on a TV channel and not an Internet stream that requires shutting down 24 unscrupulous pop-up ads was the spring of 2014.

At that time, his form with Tigres was so good he earned a spot as a reserve on Mexico's 2014 World Cup squad. Though he didn't play in Brazil, the world seemed to be at the feet of the young forward. Few could have imagined he was about to be involved in a transfer saga that would see him go to the Court of Arbitration in Sport. Tigres claimed the player had signed an extension, while Pulido contended he was a free agent.

Ultimately, Pulido missed out on several months of soccer and ended up getting a provisional move to Greece.

Now, he's disappointed in two countries. A Greek site called Gazzetta panned Pulido in an editorial that many Mexican news sources translated and published.

"The expectations were high. Everybody expected something much better than what they saw. The Mexican turned out to be a big disappointment for the club that believed and trusted in him," the piece said. "The 24-year-old forward played just once in the cup. (Manager) Marco Silva wasn't happy with him in training, because he was always behind. In the end, instead of staying and fighting for a place, he chose the easy way out: Asking to leave after few minutes played."

Common knowledge said Pulido would head to Chivas. One of Mexico's largest club, Chivas employ only Mexican players. Chivas reportedly bought a portion of Pulido's Liga MX rights from Tigres at this summer's draft. It seemed like Pulido would head to Guadalajara and help Chivas try to avoid relegation and land back in the upper echelon of Mexican soccer.

The club's fans would have loved to see a marriage between prodigal Pulido and the country's largest team. When Pulido arrived in Mexico City, he told reporters he'd enjoy playing for the Sacred Flock.

Even though it seemed to be adding up, the parties couldn't come to an agreement.

"I think it's a big mistake by Pulido," Chivas owner Jorge Vergara told ESPN. "Not playing and Greece and being a man who doesn't participate with his team means he's someone who is going to end up disappearing, unfortunately."

Yes, Pulido's situation is so strange that it has Chivas oft-erring owner Vergara sounding like the wise one.

Things are very complicated after the CAS ruling, with Mexico's somewhat arcane agreements between owners adding another layer of complication. But no matter how tough it is for Pulido to get back on the field, he must do everything he can to do so.

There are now rumors that an MLS team is coming on for him. But on Instagram, where Pulido frequently documents his moves, the player said he's heading back to Europe for now.

Pulido also wrote how happy he was to be with his family in Mexico during Christmas. That much was clear in the photos he's posted over the previous few days. No player should be denied time with his loved ones around the holidays. There is some level of confusion, though, about why Pulido landed in Mexico saying he was hoping to join Chivas and just days later had the owner of the club saying he'd killed his career.

Already, Pulido is starting to draw comparisons with Nery Castillo, a talented player who never found a consistent club home once he tried to move on from Olympiakos. Pulido may rightly feel aggrieved by the system and by some of the backroom deals that happen in Mexico. He now must put that behind him if he wants to find success on the field.

Whether that means making nice in Greece, swallowing his pride and moving to Chivas, or getting a fresh start in MLS is not important. Minutes in a top division are required to help the promising forward prove he's more than another gem that will go unpolished.