Cruz Azul’s Roberto Alvarado will turn 20 years old on Sept. 7 and it’s hard to imagine “Piojo” getting a better birthday present from his federation than his first ever National Team call up. El Tri will take the pitch against Uruguay on Alvarado’s birthday in Houston, Texas, in their first post-World Cup friendly.
When talking about exciting young Mexican talents that can push the future of the national team forward, the 19-year-old Alvarado’s name most times takes a back seat to the likes of Diego Lainez, Erick Gutiérrez, Víctor Guzmán, Joao Maleck among others. Despite maybe not having the biggest national or international profile, Alvarado’s incredible knacks to find space, beat defenders on the dribble, and get his teammates involved have been at the forefront of La Maquina’s head-turning start to the season.
Cruz Azul were very eager coming into this season’s transfer market and waited exactly 24 hours after Santos Laguna lifted the Clausura 2018 trophy before announcing the arrival of Alvarado from Necaxa. The club itself admits a big factor in bringing the prospect to the club was to comply with the return of the 20/11 rule in Liga MX. Officially, Alvarado has one goal and two assists in the league, but his impact goes beyond the score sheet. It’s true he’s used mainly as a winger, but the Guanajuato-native covers all areas of the midfield and is not just a cross-machine as most wingers tend to be. Alvarado holds much of his team’s possession during games and is the main creator in the attack. His best performance donning a blue uniform came in week five against Leon.
In the first goal, Alvarado shows off his dribbling skills cutting in between two defenders before making a through pass in traffic to Elias Hernandez. It would’ve been his third assist at the end of the night had Cota not blocked Hernandez’s first shot. In the second goal (0:50), Alvarado creatively chips the ball over Luis Montes and leaves Andres Mosquera for dead before sending a low cross to Hernandez for the goal. Finally, Alvarado dummies the goalkeeper in the final minutes(1:47), gets the rebound after Cota’s block and sends in a perfectly accurate cross to Milton Caraglio for the final goal in the blowout.
His appearance is that of a teenager, yet his playing abilities look that of a five-year first team regular starter. Perhaps that might be because he is just that. He was born a namesake of legendary Brazilian singer-songwriter Roberto Carlos in Salamanca, Guanajuato, and began his youth career with local club Celaya. In 2013, at just 15 years of age, Alvarado made his first-team debut for Los Toros in a Copa MX match against Estudiantes Tecos. Three days later, against the same team, Alvarado became the youngest ever player to debut in an Ascenso MX match.
Quick reminder that Roberto Alvarado is the youngest player ever to play in Ascenso MX. He debuted for Celaya on Sep 26, 2013 at the age of 15.— Mex Nex Gen (@MexNexGen) August 9, 2018
Keep your eyes on this young talent. pic.twitter.com/1zW7jcZA8L
His role within Celaya quickly grew and the youngster was playing over 1,000 minutes a season by his third year with the first team. He was transferred to Pachuca in 2016, but Los Tuzos unloaded him to Necaxa after just one season.
With Los Rayos, Alvarado was a part of a rejuvenation of the roster that led the organization to a Copa MX title in the 2018 Clausura season. With Necaxa, Alvarado was a top-20 player in Liga MX in successful dribbles, with 51, beating out Dorlan Pabon, Cecilio Dominguez and Elias Hernandez. He was also top-40 in key passes and big chances created, ending the season with 41 of the former and six of the latter.
Aveces hay que saber esperar para que las cosas pasen en el momento justo. ⚽️ Gracias a mi mujer, a mis papás y a toda mi familia que siempre han estado en todo momento conmigo. ⚡️⚡️⚡️ ⚽️⚡️⚡️⚡️ #NecaxaCampeon @ClubNecaxa pic.twitter.com/asT40fzXCA— Roberto Alvarado (@PiojoAlvarado) April 12, 2018
With valuable experience and transcendence on the field, it’s bemusing that he has avoided national team contact all these years. His youth national team career was nonexistent before this summer when U-21 coach Diego Ramirez called up Alvarado to suit up for Mexico in the 2018 Toulon Tournament. Alvarado responded in his first five games with a national team shirt on with three goals as El Tri lost in the final against England.
Mucha aprendizaje al haber jugado en el @TournoiToulon, orgulloso de @miseleccionmx que dejó todo en la cancha. Ahora, ilusionado por el futuro inmediato, jugar y trabajar con @Cruz_Azul_FC. #Vamos ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/Fv1LQbw4ZL— Roberto Alvarado (@PiojoAlvarado) June 11, 2018
“Piojo”, nicknamed after his childhood footballing idol Claudio Lopez, was a vital component in Necaxa’s trophy-winning season, Mexico’s run in Toulon and he is already following that same path in Mexico City with Cruz Azul. He’s patently having a career year and is deserving of a birthday present that fits his accomplishments. What better than his first ever national team call up? It looks like it might be up to Tigres’ Ricardo Ferretti to make that decision. Time will tell if he makes the right one.
All statistics taken from SofaScore.