Tom Marshall: Mexicans in Europe preview – Part 2

Several of Mexico's top players will be taking on big roles for La Liga clubs in 2014-15

It is no overstatement to suggest this is the most highly anticipated season ever in La Liga for followers of Mexicans abroad.

A total of eight Mexicans are now playing in Spain’s first division and the majority will feature regularly for teams likely to be in the top half of the table.

A significant part of the success of Mexico’s national team moving towards Russia 2018 will depend on El Tri’s current Spain-based players.

Here’s the preview of each of them ahead of the 2014-15 season kickoff next weekend. Part 1 can be found here.

Guillermo Ochoa – Malaga

Forget the heroics of the World Cup, Ochoa’s time to prove that he belongs at one of Europe’s elite clubs begins with consistently solid performances this season for Malaga.

The summer transfer is a step up from Ligue 1’s Ajaccio and the plan will be to follow in the steps of Malaga’s previous No. 1 Willy Caballero, who signed for Manchester City off the back of some fine performances in southern Spain.

A huge season awaits the 29-year-old, who retains the ambition of one day playing Champions League soccer.

Raul Jimenez – Atletico Madrid

There was already excitement in the air about Mexican participation in La Liga, but Jimenez signing for Atleti has ratcheted it up another level.

Jimenez will have a fight for minutes initially, with Mario Mandzukic, Raul Garcia and Antoine Griezmann all vying for starts in the club’s 4-4-2 system, but the 23-year-old has impressed with America and the Mexican national team and is primed for the challenge.

Working under Diego Simeone can only be a positive and Jimenez is the only Mexican with a realistic chance of lifting La Liga at the end of the season.

Giovani dos Santos – Villarreal

Stability at club level brought much more consistent performances from Dos Santos last season.

The 25-year-old thrived under the responsibility that Marcelino Garcia Toral bestowed upon him in a central role and was a key cog in Villarreal’s side last season.

Dos Santos’ team will again be amongst those challenging for a European spot. He’s in an ideal place at present as he enters his prime and the new season looks set to be the best of Dos Santos’ career.

Jonathan dos Santos – Villarreal

What can the younger Dos Santos bring to Villarreal and perhaps the Mexico national team? The truth is that it’s difficult to answer until we see him getting regular games in La Liga.

That may not happen immediately, with Dos Santos only recently recovered from a cruciate ligament injury. There should be an element of patience in giving Dos Santos time to settle at Villarreal, certainly for the first two months of the season.

Nevertheless, it will be intriguing to see if one of Mexico’s brightest young talents can finally turn the promise into consistent performances.

Carlos Vela – Real Sociedad

With Griezmann gone, Vela has even more responsibility for Real Sociedad this season and he’s unlikely to wilt under the pressure.

Vela’s record over the last two seasons speaks for itself: 30 goals in 72 games. He has been the best Mexican player anywhere over that time and there’s no reason to think the 25-year-old won’t be able to replicate his performances again.

The real question is whether Vela decides to come out of his self-imposed international exile.

Andres Guardado – Valencia

The summer has provided Guardado with a mini career revival.

After some excellent displays in central midfield during the World Cup, the 27-year-old from Guadalajara returned to Valencia and appears to be in coach Nuno Espirito Santo’s plans.

Talk of a move away from Valencia has died down and the club itself has been given a boost with the confirmation of Peter Lim as the new owner.

Javier Aquino – Rayo Vallecano

Winger Aquino’s loan move to Rayo Vallecano from Villarreal appears to be a step down on paper, but it could yet be a blessing in disguise.

Manager Paco Jemez is highly respected for his attacking style and Aquino will start regularly.

Hector Moreno – Espanyol

A broken leg against the Netherlands in the World Cup ended talk of a move to a more prestigious club and means Moreno will miss a substantial chunk of the new season.

The goal for the 26-year-old has to be to regain his form and fitness for the second half of the season and then prove again he is ready to move on next summer.