Erick Gutierrez finally got the big European move he deserved, and for Mexico’s sake, as a footballing nation, it is hopefully one that sparks many others in the wake of a new era for El Tri.
Gutierrez had been at the heart of Pachuca’s midfield for so long. At the age of 23, Guti had already been with the first team since 2013 and been captaining the squad since he was 20 (!!) He’s still forming his first steps as a successful international footballer, yet he’s already a seasoned vet in Liga MX with more than 140 league appearances. His crafty, intelligent passing and high workrate on both sides of the pitch eventually won him the eyes of Juan Carlos Osorio as Guti made the trip to Russia for the World Cup as a part of Mexico’s final 23-man roster.
After El Tri’s all-too-common Round of 16 exit, the rumors began. Erick Gutierrez to PSV. The “Mexican soccer capital in Europe” as some like to call it was after another young El Tri star.
Weeks went by, and still nothing. No official announcement. No leaked pictures. Week one of the Liga MX season arrived, and much to many fans’ disappointment, Guti was once again suiting up for Pachuca. The speculation then just stopped. News reports had it that Guti was too expensive. PSV bought Ryan Thomas, and everyone seemed to move on with their lives.
Then in late August, more than a month after the initial rumors were born, they started again. Guti to PSV was once more gaining traction, and before anyone could question whether they were legit, PSV tweeted this picture on Aug. 29:
It was simple, but it got the message across. Guti to PSV was a done deal. It took longer than expected, and injuries to Thomas, plus some suspected UEFA Champions League prize money, made the move possible. At that point, Pachuca fans, Mexican national team supporters and avid Liga MX viewers were just happy that Guti finally got his move, and joined his former teammate/roomate, Hirving Lozano, in the process.
The move comes at an interesting time for Mexicans in Europe. Things are not like it used to be. We all remember when Porto was basically a mini El Tri, Chicharito was slotting goals in every weekend and Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos were still at the top leagues in the world.
Nowadays sure, Mexico boast 17 senior players on European rosters. However, many of them are far from comfortable situations.
Diego Reyes went almost all summer without a club, Marco Fabian never got a new club, Oswaldo Alanis just barely made a desperate move to Spain’s second division, Chicharito is constantly benched, Jesus Corona is constantly benched, Miguel Layun is still fighting for a starting spot at Villarreal, Hector Moreno was a bust at Roma and Guillermo Ochoa continues to have bad luck.
Most of these players and others in Europe are also either close to or on the wrong side of 30, meaning their eventual return to the CONCACAF region (MLS or Liga MX) is nearing. They’re on a timer and in need of replacements. Guti’s move was dragged on but it finally came, and more like his need to follow.
Diego Lainez’s European rumors over the summer abruptly ended (he was also linked to Roma this week, but that deal was rejected by America). Eduardo Tercero’s rumors to Switzerland also never precipitated and Rodolfo Pizarro’s European dreams might have been sabotaged by Chivas. Countless other players, like Orbelin Pineda, Cesar Montes and Jürgen Damm’s moves never came either.
For Mexico’s sake, Guti’s move needs to be the beginning of the end of that. Guti moved to Europe at the right time, something that cannot be said for players like Ochoa, Alanis or Fabian, who went to Europe late or completely past their prime. There can be no more of that. Liga MX teams need to begin sending their players to Europe early or on time. No more ‘but he’s worth so much more than what they’re offering’, ‘they pay more in Mexico anyway,’ and DEFINITELY no more ‘Tigres is a bigger institution than Real Betis’. Yes, I’m looking at you, Jürgen. No more excuses need to be made.
This is an exciting time for Mexico and its fans. It’s the beginning of a new generation of players. Friday and Tuesday’s friendlies against Uruguay and the U.S. are testaments to that. The FMF and fans alike finally seem to be accepting of developing a young squad and giving a new manager proper cycles despite what the results may be. That’s a good start. The next move has to be to put players in Europe that deserve to be there, on good terms and on time. Guti’s move should be the first of many in the wake of a generational shift for El Tri. Let’s see who follows.
You can follow Antonio on Twitter @antonio1998__.