This month has been an exciting one for fans of Mexican futbol; the Liga MX Clausura 2019 kicked off and Gerardo “El Tata” Martino arrived to take over El Tri for the next four years. With all these exciting events going on, it got me thinking about a question that I’ve had in my mind for a while, can El Tri and Liga MX be successful at the same time?
Let me explain what I mean, I watched every minute that El Tri played in Russia 2018, and like every other fan, I experienced the highs and lows of that emotional roller coaster ride. Despite, mostly covering Mexicans playing abroad in Europe, I also watched some of the Apertura 2018. I also saw the poor performance Chivas had in the Club World Cup. After seeing all that, I am not sure that the national team and the Mexican League can both thrive at the same time, if changes are not made.
Liga MX is without a doubt experiencing one of the best moments in its history. With the exception of the Brazilian League and maybe the Argentine League, Liga MX is better than every other soccer leagues in North and South America. Most clubs are doing so well financially that they can afford to bring in talented and well known players from all over the world. A great number of clubs have modern stadiums that are the envy of other Latin American leagues. The sponsor and television deals are some of the most lucrative ever. Despite the many sports options available in the United States and Mexico, Liga MX games are still the most viewed on a weekly basis. After reading all this positive stuff about the league you may ask, what is the problem?
The problem is that the Mexican national team is just an average team that cannot get past the round of 16 in the World Cup. The only tournament El Tri can win is the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Most Mexican players are not playing at a high level in the best leagues in Europe. Chivas, the only club made up of #purosmexicanos, couldn’t compete against clubs from the Japanese league and Tunisia. The last time a Mexican player was the highest scorer in the league was in the Clausura 2011, its was Angel Reyna by the way. I can’t remember the last time a Mexican was considered the MVP of the league, can you? It seems like, buying cheap talent from South America is a lot easier and faster than producing your own home grown players.
We all get excited at the possibility of Diego Lainez succeeding at Real Betis, Raul Jimenez doing well in the Premier league, and maybe “Chucky” Lozano and Hector Herrera moving to a bigger club this summer, but that is just a start. We need a lot more stories like these to get us over the hump. Pachuca is the only Liga MX club currently producing quality Mexican players on a consistent basis. In the past five years, Rodolfo Pizarro, “Guti”, Chucky, Damm, and most recently Victor Guzman have all gone on to succeed in the Liga MX and in Europe. Chivas and Pumas have tried to rely on their academies due to their poor financial situations but have not produced the high number of quality of players they expected. For the longest time, Atlas developed young talent that played at a high level in Liga MX and abroad but they have not had a star player come out of their youth system since Andres Guardado. I keep asking myself the question, what can be done so that both the league and the national team maintain a high level?
I propose looking at the Netherlands as an example. Many of us know and watch the Dutch league because of players like Salcido, Guardado and Moreno in the past and Chucky and Guti in the present. Teams in the Dutch league, like Ajax and PSV put a lot of money and time into their youth academies and consistently develop top tier talent. They also supplement their teams with young up-and-coming talent with foreign players that do not cost too much money. Every season, teams from the Dutch League compete in the Europa League and the Champions League despite not having the economic power that clubs from the Premier League, La Liga, and the others have. They have not won the continental tournaments in a long time but they usually make the knock out phase and do pretty well considering their financial limitations.
The Netherlands has never won a World Cup but they are generally considered among the best national teams in the world. Despite having a few down years, Ronald Koeman has them back in the top tier of the UEFA Nations League, topping their group that included Germany and France. The “Naraja Mecanica” placed third in Brazil 2014, second in South Africa 2010, and fourth in France 1998; most of us would give anything to have Mexico do this well. Can you imagine the scenes at “El Angel” in Mexico City if Mexico made the World Cup final?
Besides producing high level players, Dutch coaches are also some of the most sought out in the world, Frank De Boer is the new coach of Atlanta United, Guus Hiddink has coached many top teams, Ronald Koeman is the current manager of the Netherlands national team and has coached all over Europe at some big clubs. There are no Mexican coaches in any of the top or mid-level leagues in Europe. The last time Mexican coaches were given a chance in Europe was when Hugo Sanchez and Javier Aguirre were coaching in La Liga.
I really believe that in order for both the league and the national team to do well, things have to change in a major way. Instead of buying foreign players in their late 20s and early 30s, Liga MX clubs have to put more time and money into their youth academies and fill in the gaps with young promising foreign players. They must also get out of the way and make it easier for players to go to European clubs. Mexican coaches need to be developed as well and given the chance to show what they can do in the league, and hopefully they can move on to bigger and better leagues as well. There are over 120 million people in Mexico and over 30 million people of Mexican descent the United States. There is plenty of undiscovered or underdeveloped talent just waiting for the opportunity to take Mexico to the next level in world football.
What do you think can be done so that Liga MX and El Tri can both be successful at the same time? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.