The future of Raul Jimenez is finally set to be decided after a saga that has ebbed and flowed all summer long. In all probability, the 23-year-old will sign on the dotted line for La Liga champions Atletico Madrid in coming days.
There are two main reasons that Jimenez is likely bound for the Spanish capital.
First, America’s sporting director Ricardo Pelaez has admitted the offer from Atleti is “good.” He is known for being forthright with the press and said less than a week ago that Porto’s bid was nowhere near acceptable. Pelaez has maintained that Jimenez would be allowed to leave if a club matched America’s valuation, as was the case with Diego Reyes.
Second, Jimenez has stuck to his line about Europe being his dream. After Saturday’s 2-0 win against Tigres, he spoke about the opportunity to move to the Vicente Calderon. “Opportunities come once in a lifetime. the train comes by once and you have to get on it.”
At last, there appears to be an agreement after a summer in which Jimenez seemed to be itching to leave and America appeared to be holding a move up due to its high demands, which it is perfectly entitled to do with a player under contract.
If Jimenez does belatedly move, though, it’d be an ideal situation for all parties involved.
The player would have a battle on to earn a starting spot, but it is far from inconceivable that he could win one in his first season under Diego Simeone’s 4-4-2 system.
Diego Costa and David Villa left the club this summer, but the additions of Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann – known mainly as a winger - have partly filled the gaping holes left in the Rojiblancos attack.
Although Atletico are one of the European game's top sides, the door to the first team is open for Jimenez – who, remember, is not yet an automatic Mexico national team starter.
And, as if it needs repeating, Simeone is one of the most talented young coaches in Europe; one who has consistently got the best out of his players since taking over in late 2011. Atleti beating the star-studded squads of Real Madrid and Barcelona to the league title last season will go down as an historic achievement in Spanish football and the side is unlikely to be far off the pace this coming season, meaning Jimenez would be in the hunt for trophies.
From America’s point of view, the deal would recuperate the expense shed out on Jimenez’s replacement, Oribe Peralta – as well as a significant amount extra if the reported €15 million transfer fee is to be believed.
Aside from the money, America's reputation as a club that develops players – not traditionally its strong point – would be boosted, following Reyes’ move to Porto last summer.
For Atleti, Jimenez represents a calculated risk that comes at a fraction of the €40m price Porto’s 27-year-old Jackson Martinez was purported to cost.
“The boy plays well and is physically strong,” said Simeone after America’s 0-0 draw with Atleti this month. “I think he’s got a good future.”
The final winner would be Mexican football in general, with Jimenez on the brink of becoming one of only a few Mexicans ever – Hugo Sanchez, Rafa Marquez, Javier Hernandez, Luis Garcia – to play at what you could genuinely call elite-level European teams.