On the cusp of another Liga MX year, here are 15 youngsters to watch in 2017.
1. Hirving Lozano (Pachuca) Age: 21
It goes without saying, Hirving Lozano continues to be one of the most promising players in Mexico’s national team pool. “Chucky” finished last season as the highest scoring Mexican player in Liga MX, and if he continues to stay healthy, there is reason to believe a move to Europe is somewhere in the cards.
2. Erick Gutierrez (Pachuca) Age: 21
You can make the argument that Erick Gutierrez is the Mexican youngster with the biggest potential. “Guti” is capable of pulling the strings of any midfield. The problem is finding a manager that trusts him. In Diego Alonso, he has found a coach willing to give him the midfield reigns of the team, and in that regard, it is no coincidence that Pachuca’s recent success correlates with Guti’s move to a more constructive role.
3. Cesar Montes (Rayados) Age: 19
El Tri fans have been petitioning loudly for Cesar Montes to receive a chance with the senior national team. At 19 years old, Montes is perhaps the most ready-made young Mexican center back since Diego Reyes. An undisputed starter at Monterrey, Montes can only keep adding to his already impressive skill-set.
4. Orbelin Pineda (Chivas) Age: 20
Orbelin Pineda is everything a Mexican midfielder should be. Tiredless and brilliant in short spaces, it is no coincidence Pineda has already been rumored with the likes of Manchester City. Since his Queretaro days, Pineda has shown great promise, and Mexico national team coach Juan Carlos Osorio has been specially impressed by the young midfielder.
5. Guido Rodriguez (Tijuana) Age: 22
It is arguable there wasn’t a more important player to his team last season than Guido Rodriguez was for Xolos de Tijuana. The Argentine is the definition of a defensive midfielder. Rodriguez was absolutely superb, and barring a European team coming in for him in June, expect Guido to be staple in Tijuana’s midfield going forward.
6. Rodolfo Pizarro (Chivas) Age: 22
Pizarro is known for being able to play in multiple positions, but no matter his place on the field, he likes to play the role of disruptor. Whether it is running down the flank or pressing without the ball, Pizarro relishes the opportunity to cause disorder on the opponent’s half. Most recently at Pachuca, Pizarro had been playing in a more advanced position, helping free up Hirving Lozano and Franco Jara on the attack. Now at Chivas, expect Pizarro to play a similar role with Alan Pulido and Isaac Brizuela.
7. Jonathan Rodriguez (Santos Laguna) Age: 23
Six goals in his first 16 Liga MX appearances, the Uruguayan forward was one of the few bright spots in Santos Laguna’s woeful Apertura season. Rodriguez looks tailor-made for the Mexican game, and with Julio Furch’s arrival to Santos, there will be plenty more space to work with for the young Charrua.
8. Edson Alvarez (Club America) Age: 19
If there is one player that perhaps has benefited most from Ricardo La Volpe’s arrival to the Club America bench it is Edson Alvarez. From seemingly out of nowhere, Alvarez has turned into one of Mexico’s most intriguing prospects. Ball-playing center-backs are a rare commodity in the sport, which is why Alvarez is sure to get plenty of attention in 2017.
9. Leonel Lopez (Leon) Age: 22
Speaking of players that improved under new coaches, Leonel Lopez can thank Javier Torrente for his recent rise through the Leon ranks. Lopez was quietly one of the most underrated performers in last season’s Clausura. If you like comparisons, think of Lopez as a player like Sami Khedira. Not your traditional defensive midfielder but also not a constructive force. He quietly gets the job done in almost every aspect of the field.
10. Diego Valdes (Monarcas Morelia) Age: 22
Another recent arrival to the Mexican game, Diego Valdes accounted for three goals and four assists in 17 Liga MX appearances last season. For the 2017 Clausura, much of Morelia’s hopes of staying in Mexico’s top-tier will depend on the Chilean midfielder and how he connects with top-scorer Raul Ruidiaz.
11. Jesus Gallardo (Pumas UNAM) Age: 22
Another player that Mexico national team coach Juan Carlos Osorio has taken a liking towards to, Jesus Gallardo had an impressive 2017 for the Universitarios. The winger showed plenty of promise on the Pumas left flank, and if he can continue to boost his goal and assist tally in 2017, there will only be more future national team call ups.
12. Javier Eduardo “La Chofis” Lopez (Chivas) Age: 22
The biggest challenge for “La Chofis” in 2017 will be earning his place in the starting XI of Chivas. Less than a year after going mainstream, it has become abundantly clear that his biggest trait is his vision. Technically, there might not be a player in Guadalajara better than La Chofis. It is just a matter of finding a way to activate his superb playmaking skills.
13. Erick Aguirre (Pachuca) Age: 19
At 19 years old, it is safe to assume Erick Aguirre still has the best part of his career to look forward to, but the position he eventually ends up settling in remains to be seen. Like his former teammate Rodolfo Pizarro, Aguirre can do a little bit of everything. Ultimately, though, his best fit might be through the center, where he can bring out the best of his passing range and technical ability.
14. Jaine Stiven Barreiro (Atlas) Age: 22
There is a reason Liga MX teams look to the Colombian market for center-backs. Not only are they solid defensively, but they are technically very good. From the start, Barreiro was always going to be a work in progress, and while at best you could say he had an inconsistent Apertura before eventually suffering a serious leg injury, those good performances he had were beyond good. Everyone at Atlas is saying Barreiro’s return will be like a new signing for the Rojinegros and for good reasons.
15. Walter Gael Sandoval (Santos Laguna) Age: 21
Along with Jonathan Rodriguez, the other bright spot in Santos Laguna’s horrid 2016 Apertura season was Walter Gael Sandoval. Previously, Sandoval had earned himself a trial with Serie A outfit AS Roma, and after just 17 Liga MX appearances, you can see why. Sandoval notched a total of four assists, while also scoring his first ever goal for the Guerreros in the 2016 Apertura.
Bonus - Ernesto Alexis Vega (Toluca) Age: 19
Vega is expected to make his return from a bad ACL injury at some point in 2017. Prior to his unfortunate injury, the forward had earned a starting spot for the Diablos Rojos and plenty of praise from Liga MX admirers.