This very unfamiliar Guard1anes 2020 Liga MX season has come to an end with a surprisingly unsurprising champion: Club Leon.
The best Mexican club of the past year and a half, La Fiera, led by Ignacio Ambriz, lifted the title over the heads of Pumas UNAM and earned their eighth league title.
With the season done and dusted, the next thing to do is to pick the best XI of the season (with backups, obviously). Let us know your best XI in the comments down below!
Without a doubt THE keeper of the season, Alfredo Talavera reinvigorated himself with his move to Pumas UNAM from Toluca after over a decade with Los Diablos Rojos. His surprise transfer bolstered an underwhelming Pumas squad to the top spots during the regular season. Tala played the second leg of the Guard1anes final after being out for more than a month with injury, yet still managed to finish first in the league for saves inside the box (39). Had he not missed any action, he surely would have finished first in more categories, including overall saves (4th).
The 23-year-old young gun out of Zamora, Michoacan, left his boyhood club Monarcas Morelia after the team was sold and relocated to Mazatlan. Necaxa took a chance on him, made him their No. 1, and reaped the benefits of his fantastic first season in the top flight. His fine form forced him into national team talks, and as Mexican keepers not named Guillermo Ochoa continue to struggle on international duty, we may see him with El Tri soon enough.
He’s a proper right back, but more and more Navarro found himself as a center attacking midfielder this season, setting up some goals and banging more in for champions Club Leon. His pace and fluidity in moving about the pitch were instrumental for Leon’s attacks, and there was simply no other right back opposing players were more afraid of than Navarro this season.
Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez
One of Tata Martino’s favorite players, Chaka had yet another solid season at right-back for Tigres UANL. Love him or hate him, his link-up play with Tigres’ attackers is telepathic and his passing ability in the final third of the pitch is almost unmatched. His 25 key passes (2nd behind Navarro) prove so.
Right Center Back:
The leader of the league’s best defense, Oscar Murillo is rarely celebrated but frequently brilliant for Pachuca. Los Tuzos snuck into the playoffs with the ninth seed partly thanks to Murillo’s force in the backline. He was great in the air, winning 74 aerial duels (1st in the league) and 122 total duels, making him THE best at beating his man on defense.
With all of Chivas’ defensive deficiencies, the 31-year-old Mier was a bright light in a dark basement. His vocal leadership, 73 clearances (6th), and 24 blocked shots (2nd) stood out in what was possibly his best season since his days as a highly-touted young defender at Monterrey.
Left Center Back:
And speaking of former Monterrey defenders, we have Johan Vasquez, who has stepped up his game in a big way after being loaned out to Pumas UNAM this year. Vasquez intercepted the ball more than any other defender this season (64) and looks more and more like a future center-back partner for someone like Cesar Montes with the Mexican national team.
A rather strange inclusion if you didn’t watch Necaxa play this season, but the Spaniard Bilbao took his game to the next level in his first season in Aguascalientes. The Basque native scored some important headers for Los Rayos and had the second most clearances (79) and the most blocked shots (26) of all defenders in the league.
Without a doubt the player we would have all wanted to watch more this season. The Colombian played in just 14 games this season, starting all but one, and even still that was enough to blow the competition out of the water. His passing is unmatched from left-back, and as a former winger, his attacking style is exciting and natural. He’s the most complete fullback in the country, and in our opinion, the Liga MX player that is most ready for a European move. Enjoy him while you can.
Somehow despite being a six-year veteran in Liga MX, Aguirre can still be considered a prospect at 23 years old. In reality, the former Morelia fullback is now a leader at Pachuca and is as versatile as one player can get, having played games at right-back, left mid, left wing, and center mid. Besides Moreno, he’s been the most consistent and solid left-back in the game this season.
Another season for the books for Angel Mena. The Ecuadorian winger scored nine goals and assisted six more as he finally got his hands on the Liga MX title with Leon. It’s been a long time coming for one of the more spectacular players to come through Mexico the past few years. You can always count on one thing, the boy’s going to put up BIG numbers on the scoresheet. We’re only three seasons removed from when Mena led the league in both goals (14) and assists (10) which is an outrageous thing to do in this day in age and we’re still not over it.
Toluca had a bad season. They changed coaches halfway through, were the last team in the repechaje, and were eliminated right away by Tigres. Still, all of that would not have been possible without Sambu. Even at 36 (now 37) years old, there are not too many in Mexico that can do what Sambueza can do with the ball at his feet. He was 4th in key passes (38) and 2nd in accurate final third passes (283) out of all midfielders in the league.
Going from a budding, young center back to a gritty, tough-tackling, box-to-box mid, Luis Romo has blossomed into a true gem for Mexico and Cruz Azul. The former Queretaro defender led all midfielders in tackles (51) and was a staple in the crowded Maquina midfield that saw vets like Elias Hernandez and Yoshimar Yotun get put on the bench more times than Romo. He’s also ingratiated himself into a creative role, propping up six assists this season for the semifinalists.
Jose Guadalupe Cruz needs to make Cabrera his captain next season at Necaxa. No one ever expected Los Rayos to go anywhere near the playoffs, and yet they made it to the repechaje, thanks to a big push by Cabrera in the midfield. The Mexican trailed only Luis Montes in both accurate long balls (80) and key passes (41) from midfield this season.
The best midfielder, the best Mexican, the best player over 30, the best player PERIOD in Liga MX, ladies and gentlemen: Luis Montes. I’ll save you the endless list, Chapito led in almost every statistical category for midfielders, from key passes to total duels won. Montes is the engine that keeps this Leon team running and even though they boast a very complete roster, I don’t think they would have been able to capture the title without him this season. Ages like wine, this man.
From one Luis that has left his national team days behind him in Montes to one that received his very first call-up this season in Chavez. The 24-year-old was instrumental in Pachuca’s midfield during Victor Guzman’s suspension and had some big performances as a No. 8.
When it comes to goals + assists, no other winger had more (9) than Antuna. He had a discipline issue early in the season, but if he can stay out of controversy, he can continue to be the creative spark that Chivas have desperately needed for some time now. His rapid pace coupled with his uncanny ability to get himself in dangerous positions to score and or assist his teammates provided Guadalajara with nearly half of its attacking output in the regular season (20).
No Club America player was more consistent or fun to watch as Cordova was this season. It seemed like all other Azulcremas had a spark at some point that would die down as time went on, but the homegrown winger from Aguascalientes kept it on all year. He’s looking more and more like an heir and successor (weird considering Cordova is three years older) to what Diego Lainez brought to Las Aguilas.
This may be a controversial one, so here’s the logic: Dinenno had 12 goals this season, one less than his backup, Andre-Pierre Gignac. However, his goals were more critical to the success of Pumas making it all the way to the final. He struggled in his first season at the club but found his rhythm now in his second, scoring once every 162 minutes, on average. He’s not a superstar, but his goals provided a Pumas team punching above its weight to knock most opponents out cold.
13 goals in what still seemed like a down year for APG is ridiculous. The Frenchman is already a legend walking at Tigres, what more could we say? He’s slowed down a bit as an overall player sure, but in reality, he’s still an elite poacher if there ever was one. The man targets the goal like no other.
Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodriguez
2020 was downright awful, but for Cabecita, it was the best year of his footballing career thus far. Ten goals in the canceled Clausura, and now 13 more this season. He averages a goal every 134 minutes and is the beating soul of La Maquina right now. European transfer rumors have already started circulating around Rodriguez, and it’s easy to see why. He’s one of the most electrifying players in the league with his abilities to finish and take players on with ease.
Talk about a one-man team. Dario Lezcano WAS FC Juarez this season. The borderland club finished one place out of the repechaje and only won four games, scoring 16 goals, with the Paraguayan striker scoring 10 of them. Other strikers had a better team season, but no one was more important to the individual results of their squad than Lezca.
You can follow Antonio on Twitter @antonio1998__