The number of Mexicans in top European leagues can be counted on two hands, but that could change this winter if Mexican clubs finally allow them to move on.
Chicharito, Carlos Vela, Hector Moreno and Andres Guardado have thrived at the highest levels, but Mexican exports in European leagues right now can still be counted on two hands, and with fingers to spare.
As recently as the last summer transfer window, Mexicans young and old were returning in numbers to the motherland. Nery Castillo, Pablo Barrera, Efrain Juarez, Taufic Guarch and Edson Rivera all returned from Europe over the last few months. And despite hype to the contrary after the Olympic run, absolutely no one made the move overseas.
There are plenty of reasons why that continues to be the case, and the most important one is money. In all but the most extraordinary of cases - when a player is truly world class - Mexicans are still worth more at home than they are abroad.
That’s strange - stunning even - because the talent in Mexico is indisputable. Interest continues to be high abroad in a number of Mexico’s budding stars, but nothing is concrete yet as far as the winter signing period.
But Mexicans capable of playing well in Europe are more widespread than ever, with Diego Reyes, Marco Fabian, Jorge Enriquez, Javier Aquino, Hiram Mier and many others attracting serious enquiries from big clubs in Europe already this month, weeks before the signing window even opens.
Even the likes of defender Nestor Vidrio, hardly one of El Tri’ brightest young players, apparently has attracted a bid from La Liga contender Real Betis. It’s remarkable that it’s not just the top Mexican players with plans to succeed abroad these days.
Clubs abroad are not only upping their interest in the Mexican game, they’re also upping the offers being made for Mexican players, with Fabian likely set to be sold for somewhere between 12 and 15 million euros.
The pricing dam is ready to burst. The only question left is, will Mexican clubs allow that to happen? Until now, Mexican teams generally have prevented their players from exploring European interest like jealous girlfriends trying to stop their man from going out on the town.
Clubs have outright blocked some European moves, especially for young players, by threatening that if things go awry and the player wants to return to Mexico, he won’t be taken back. There, the age old Gentleman’s Agreement gets in the way, since the last club to hold rights to a player before he moves abroad continues to be the only one that can place the player into Mexican football should he want to return.
In the case of Rivera, who flew the coop to Portugal against Atlas’ wishes, the player and his agent were forced to return on their knees just to get the young prospect a place to play in his homeland.
This sort of behavior is spiteful, is hurting Mexican players, and needs to come to an end. There’s no need for the jealous attitude. While Mexicans continue to be the key to Liga MX success, there are more and more to go around. Successfully developed young stars should be aggressively shopped to Europe - when they’re ready - and younger players given a chance in Liga MX.
Or the money could be used to bring in better talent from abroad and boost the Mexican league into the very top levels of world soccer.
Whatever. What matters is that more Mexican players get a chance in Europe. And for that to happen, money is no longer the main obstacle. Instead, it’s those player hating clubs.