Monterrey enter the Apertura 2019 with some uncertainty and lofty expectations. Los Rayados were able to beat their cross-town rivals UANL Tigres to win the CONCACAF Champions League, but were unable to beat them in the semifinals of the Clausura 2019 Liguilla.
The loss in the Liguilla ensured that despite spending big, bringing in big names such as Chivas attacker Rodolfo Pizarro, Jesús Gallardo from UNAM Pumas, former, FC Porto, Watford FC and Sevilla defender Miguel Layún, and Argentina international midfielder Maxi Meza from CA Independiente, Monterrey went yet another year without a Liga MX title. Monterrey haven’t won the league since 2010, while they’ve been runners up three times since then. Tigres, on the other hand, have won the league five times since then.
The roster at Monterrey has seen almost no turnover, although Los Rayados have been strongly linked to a couple different transfers. After about a week of speculation, Monterrey have landed Vincent Janssen from England’s Tottenham Hotpur. The striker had a rough life in London, however, he had an impressive season at AZ Alkmaar, scoring 27 goals in 34 league matches, before his unsuccessful move to Spurs.
Current Girona and Uruguay international forward Cristhian Stuani has also been linked as well, but it’s doubtful that both Stuani and Janssen would both arrive at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer, but this ownership group has proven before that money really is no object in a pursuit of a title.
The most significant transfer for Monterrey will likely be Rodolfo Pizarro and Carlos “Charly” Rodrigeuz staying put and not leaving for Europe. Rodriguez has been scouted by Manchester United and Pizarro has been linked with both Marseille and AC Milan. Both Pizarro and Rodriguez played significant roles in Mexico’s win in the Gold Cup this past summer, and hopefully they got enough rest to be able to contribute right away in the season.
Meza had an underwhelming Clausura after arriving during the January transfer window, but despite the desire for Boca Juniors to bring Meza back to Argentina, it looks as if Meza is staying put for at least another season.
At goalkeeper, Monterrey will keep the services of Marcelo Barovero, and while he’s a tad shaky at times, he’s about as reliable as a keeper as you’ll get in Liga MX. He’s not getting any younger, however, and while he might have a season or two left, he’s eventually going to have to be replaced.
In defense, Cesár Montes and Nico Sánchez will still be first choice at central defense, with either Leonel Vagioni or Gallardo at left back. Layún is first choice at right back, with Stefan Medina can fill in at either right back or central defence. Playing Layún and Gallardo as fullbacks means that the defense can get exposed, as they are both attack first players.
In central midfield, Rodriguez has looked terrific since breaking into the first team, and along with Jonathan Gonzalez and Celso Ortiz, they form the core of the 4-2-3-1 that manager Diego Alonso prefers to play in. Eric Cantú can also play in central midfield or as a fullback, and Gallardo and Meza have been tipped to playing in the middle as well.
At the number 10/ enganche position, Pizzaro and Meza are the most likely to play behind the striker, although Avilés Hurtado can also play in that position. Dorlan Pabón and Hurtado will likely be the most frequent to play on the wings, although Jonathan Urretaviscaya should be able to come back this season after suffering an ugly injury during last year’s Apertura.
Up top, the departure of Adam Bareiro to go out on loan to San Lorenzo will not be felt, as he didn’t contribute very much last season. Ángel Zaldívar is back for another season, and he needs to improve on the one goal he scored last year if he’s going to earn any playing time.
Striker Rogelio Funes Mori is straw that stirs the drink for Monterrey, as he’s the most important player on the team, despite all the talent that Los Rayados possess. The club has been looking for an alternative to him for awhile now, as he can’t be relied on to do it all himself. Funes Mori going down injured, as he did in the Apertura 2018, would be a disaster for the club’s ambitions and hopefully bringing in Janssen can either spell or provide competition for Funes Mori and get better results for the club.
Monterrey should safely qualify for the Liguilla this season, and have all the tools to make it to the finals, with a chance to finally get over the hump and grab another title. Alonso has as much pressure on him as any manager in Mexico, as the owners have not been shy about buying talent and holding onto the players that could leave for big transfer fees. A lack of title in either the Apertura 2019 or Clausura 2020 could usher in big changes at the club, as coming close just isn’t good enough anymore.