JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 27: Andres Guardado of Mexico challenges Nicolas Otamendi of Argentina during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen match between Argentina and Mexico at Soccer City Stadium on June 27, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
For quite some time, I've held the opinion that Andres Guardado is the most talented player in the Mexican national player pool. For natural talent at 100% fitness, he is in the category of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Dwayne De Rosario, and Bryan Ruiz as far as attacking players from North America go. Problem is, he can never seem to stay fit for Deportivo La Coruña, a team that seriously lacks in quality when he isn't on the pitch. Though Depor has gutted out some decent results in the second half of the La Liga season, there's no question that a lot of that has to do with luck, while a lot of that has to do with La Liga decreasing in quality. They still look poor without him.
Two weeks ago, Guardado played 56 minutes as Depor gutted out a 0-0 victory against Real Madrid. He was forced to sit out the following week in a game against Osasuna that resulted in a 0-0 draw, but he played 90 minutes last week in Depor's 2-1 win over Real Sociedad. Much like the Madrid match, that might have taken too much out of him. Guardado looks set to sit out this week's match against Espanyol, due to muscle fatigue. Guardado has not trained with the team since Wednesday.
While Guardado has found a way to get fit for most of Mexico's competitive fixtures, despite his fitness battles, his lack of regular playing time in La Liga has almost certainly hurt his El Tri performances. If Mexico want to consider themselves favorites for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Guardado needs to finish strong in La Liga and come into El Tri's camp both fit and in good form. That hasn't been the case in a couple of years, and he's struggling to get fit yet again. However, the Mexican star is still just 24 years old. His best years could still be ahead of him.