Spurs flop Janssen can seize chance to rescue career in Monterrey

Vincent Janssen Monterrey
Azael Rodriguez
The Dutch forward's time in northern Mexico has gone about the same as his spell in northern London, but a Liguilla chance could be just what he needs

A player can generally get over not being a success in the Premier League. There's little shame in not hacking it in one of the best leagues in the world, and plenty of players who were disappointments in England went on to have great careers elsewhere.

Being a flop in Liga MX? That's a more difficult pill to swallow.

That's the path Dutch forward Vincent Janssen was on until last week when he scored in each leg of Monterrey's quarterfinal against Santos Laguna to help Rayados into the semifinals, which begin Wednesday night.

He may have been expecting to have an easier go of things. While Monterrey was careful not to trumpet it as such, many outsiders saw the acquisition of a European forward this summer as a counter-argument to crosstown rival Tigres signing Andre-Pierre Gignac. The Frenchman immediately set to rewriting the club and league record books when he arrived in the 2015 Apertura and, when he leaves, hr will go out as not only a club legend but as one of the league's best all-time.

Janssen, by contrast, couldn't break into Monterrey's starting XI under former coach Diego Alonso, and even when the club made a midseason switch to Antonio Mohamed was unable to get into the first-choice team.

"I think there’s a lot of quality in the league, very good players," Janssen told Fox Deportes this week. "From the first team to the last team in the league, there’s quality."

His signing was something of a surprise this offseason. Janssen was not wanted by the types of clubs Gignac was when he signed in Mexico, nor was he on a world tour of sorts like Ronaldinho or Keisuke Honda when they signed with Liga MX clubs in the last few years - though he did have a stint in Turkey before slumping back to Spurs for a final few appearances.

Rayados had been linked with higher-profile forwards from abroad in the summer, with Lukas Podolski among the names in the rumor mill. However, it was Janssen who actually arrived, saying in his first interview in Mexico he was intrigued by the adventure Mexico would bring and once he learned more about Monterrey's project, he was convinced to sign.

The first few months of the Mexican adventure won't be viewed as a success, the 25-year-old might argue he simply needed an opportunity. Janssen scored in one of the two starts he earned in the regular season, a September draw with Cruz Azul, and also had five goals in the Copa MX, a tournament generally contested by younger players until the latter rounds.

He made the most a chance that fell to him last week thanks to an injury to fellow forward Rogelio Funes Mori. The players have similar profiles, and Janssen has been unable to dislodge the Argentine from his starting role. Both managers preferring Funes Mori, whose 10 goals in 18 matches this season made him Monterrey's leading scorer, meant little time for Janssen.

He hopes that could change, with Monterrey's formation rather fluid under Mohamed as it copes with a number of injured players.

"I think we can play together, but obviously if he plays I have to make sure I’m ready, if I play he has to make sure he’s ready," Janssen said. "Hopefully it’s a fair competition, and we make each other stronger. If he needs us both to play, we’ll both play and make sure we’ll do well."

Vincent Janssen Monterrey

The Dutchman did well in both legs of the quarterfinals, scoring from the penalty spot in a 5-2 first-leg rout and also assisting one of Dorlan Pabon's two goals. Janssen was on the mark again Sunday, finishing off a counter-attack in the second leg in a 1-1 draw that was good enough for Rayados to move into the next round.

"Vincent played, like everyone, a great game," Mohamed said after the first leg. "There were some standout players, two or three if we look at Charly (Rodriguez) and Dorlan - and Janssen had an amazing game."

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With Funes Mori still struggling to return from a right calf issue, Janssen is expected to once again lead the line for Monterrey against Necaxa in Wednesday's first leg. If he stands out once again, or if Funes Mori continues to have complications, he could even end up on a more global stage at the Club World Cup. 

Monterrey represents Concacaf in the tournament later this month thanks to its Concacaf Champions League win in the spring.

Janssen says he hasn't started thinking about that yet, but it could be an important step to show he still has something to give, even beyond Liga MX.