In a recent article, FutMexNation showed that Liga MX clubs have a preference to use foreign attackers, and domestic defenders. As well as the clubs themselves, this bias may be harming El Tri. Due to the preference, Juan Carlos Osorio has fewer regularly playing attackers to choose from than defenders, and the development of some forwards has likely been stunted.
In this article, Tom Harrison explores a few Mexican attackers that he believes are underrated, and haven’t received as many opportunities as Tom thinks they’ve deserved.
Since making his debut for Morelia in 2008/09, Rodolfo Vilchis has averaged playing for just over four and a half games per season.
However, this season Vilchis has come to life. His game winning free-kick in the Copa MX semi-final against Cruz Azul is the highlight of an influential 2016/17 campaign, which has included three goals and assists from just six Liga MX starts.
— #CopaCoronaMX (@CopaCoronaMx) April 5, 2017
Vilchis also provided the cross which Raúl Ruidíaz turned in via Miguel Sansores’ flick-on to keep Morelia in Mexico’s top flight.
The right-footed winger, who can play on both sides, also caught the eye when receiving a run in the Leones Negros side, back during the 2014/15 season. Vilchis showed off his pace, trickery, technique and creativity, but has started just eight league matches since returning to Atlas, and then to Morelia.
Hopefully this recent strong run of form will be the beginning of Vilchis finally getting a run in a team, but with the likes of Jefferson Cuero and Andy Polo, competition for wide spots is high at Morelia.
Villalpando has bags of untapped potential.
When Pachuca finished as runners-up in the 2014 Clausura, Villalpando was the assist leader, at just 22 years of age. It seemed like the attacking-midfielder would go onto be a key part of the Tuzos youth movement, alongside “Chucky” Lozano, Erick Gutiérrez and Rodolfo Pizarro. But six months later, perhaps due to poor behaviour, Dieter was sold on.
Unsuccessful spells with Tigres, Morelia and Atlas, where he was often played out of position, have followed, before a move to Chiapas for the 2016/17 season. This has proven fantastic for Villalpando, who, despite their relegation, was crucial to Sergio Bueno’s system in the centre of midfield.
Villalpando has displayed his impressive vision, pass accuracy and pass timing as Chiapas have played some beautiful football. The ex-Pachuca man has thrived since being moved back from a ‘number ten’, or a wide playmaker role, to a ‘number eight’ position. This deeper role allows Villalpando more time on the ball to dictate the play and make things happen.
Dieter is also one of those special, genius, players with ability to come up with the extraordinary, like this golazo against Necaxa.
— Fut Mex Nation (@FutMexNation) March 19, 2017
A few years have been wasted, but at 25, Villalpando still has time to become the creative force for Mexico that he has the potential to be. Liga MX teams should be queuing up to sign, and build around, him.
In a league crammed full of quick, tricky wingers, Jorge Zárate stands out. Zárate has something that the majority of these players don’t have, a high level of vision.
Zárate isn’t as good a dribbler as the top attacking midfielders/wingers in Liga MX, but his vision of pass is very impressive. This makes Jorge a more-rounded creative threat than a player like Jurgen Damm or Joao Rojas, who are better at blowing past their marker, but perhaps this doesn’t help his reputation. Dribbling past a defender is probably more memorable than taking a defender out of the game with a pass, even if there’s a lack of end product after the dribble.
The Morelia man may have also suffered from being played out wide instead of centrally. Zárate has played a few games as a ‘number ten’, but not enough to be able to judge him properly.
Is there a Mexican player with as much flair as Flavio Santos?
Flavio’s spent most of his season around the lower end of the Liga MX table with Atlas and Puebla, but he’s provided plenty of entertainment in the process.
— Tom Harrison (@tomh_36) August 9, 2015
Probably not quite quick enough to be a winger, Santos has almost exclusively been used out wide, with his weak work ethic making him a potential liability if used centrally.
Watching Flavio was always a thrill due to his capability of pulling something remarkable out of nowhere, but frustrating at the same time. I always wanted to see him get on the ball more often in order to make things happen, but he went missing far too often during matches. His work off the ball wasn’t consistent enough, although being stuck out on the wing didn’t help.
Santos has now turned 30 and dropped down to Dorados in the Ascenso. Dorados did win the Apertura though, and are in the promotion play-off, so we could see Flavio back in Liga MX. That would be fun to watch.
When Giovani Hernández established himself as a starter for Chivas in 2014, his future looked bright. But Gio has since fallen out of favour, had an unsuccessful loan spell with Dorados, and is now on loan at Coras de Tepic.
A creative midfielder, Gio may have suffered for being played out of position for the majority of his career so far. His talents may be best suited to a central or attacking midfield role, but Giovani’s been overwhelming used as a winger, a common theme in this article.
Hernández has performed very well for Coras, scoring seven times in 26 league games, suggesting that he’s ready to make his mark on Liga MX again next season. If Chivas are willing to sell, he’ll be a great addition for plenty of sides.
When Puebla survived the drop in the 2014-15 season, they found a secret weapon. Alfonso Tamay started the final three games of that season, caused plenty of problems with his pace and direct running, and scored a crucial goal during Puebla’s two-two draw with Santos, which kept them in Liga MX.
Tamay looked set to become a first-teamer for Puebla, but that didn’t happen.
Following just four sub appearances the following season, Tamay’s had spells at Cefataleros de Tapachula, Tampico Madero and Alebrijes de Oacaxa. The move to Oacaxa has proved highly successful, with Tamay scoring six goals since transferring pre-Clausura. A return to Liga MX could soon be on the cards.
Erbín Trejo has had a strange career. The Toluca player only made his first Liga MX start at the age of 23, having made just seven sub appearances during his previous four years with Los Diablos Rojos.
— Fut Mex Nation (@FutMexNation) April 2, 2017
It’s hard to imagine another country where a player would stay at a club after so few opportunities. Whether it be a lack of ambition, wanting to stay and fight for a place, or being unable to leave due to the pacto de caballeros, Trejo remained at Toluca.
Finally, Erbín’s been given some games, mainly following the arrival of Hernán Cristante. The versatile midfielder is intelligent, quick, possesses great dribbling and although he’s much better when in possession, contributes defensively. After years of showing his talents in Copa MX, we’re finally seeing the best of Trejo in league matches, he’s an influential member of a Toluca side that could go all the way in liguilla. Shame it took so long.
Sometimes a player makes an instant impression on you, and you expect big things from them. In the case of Ángel Gaspar, nothing big has happened yet.
After a couple of strong performances in Copa MX, Gaspar was given a few opportunities in the Atlas side last season, but he’s since stepped down to the Ascenso MX with Atlante.
For whatever reason, Ángel hasn’t played much for Atlante, making just a single start in the league.
— Tom Harrison (@tomh_36) January 21, 2016
This is a great shame, as Ángel Gaspar appeared to have plenty of potential. He was a raw talent, but a technically gifted midfielder, with good intelligence and the ability to create. I didn’t see him enough to fully judge, but from the glimpses I received, there was a quality player in the making.
Why have these players failed to make it?
This article has mentioned some of the reasons why the players mentioned have failed to ‘make it’ so far. Poor attitude and behaviour, a lack of ambition, little first-team football, an inability to move due to the pacto de caballeros and being played out of position are all possible factors.
In terms of first-team football, the preference for foreign attackers and domestic defenders means that Mexican attackers are likely hit worse by a lack of game time than Mexican defenders.
Being played out of position was a common theme throughout this article. In my opinion; Dieter Villalpando, Jorge Zárate, Giovani Hernández and Flavio Santos would all, on average, be more effective if used centrally rather than out wide, as they can get on the ball more often and use their vision to full effect.
Villalpando is a great example as we’ve seen him play a good amount centrally and out wide. As a winger for Atlas and Morelia, Dieter rarely caught the eye. As a ‘number ten’ for Pachuca he was the league’s assist leader, and as a ‘number eight’ for Chiapas, Villalpando has been dictating the tempo for one of the best teams in possession in Liga MX this season.
Playing these attacking players in central roles is risky, as they don’t have great defensive pedigree, but using them out wide doesn’t allow them to fully utilise their vision, which is often regarded as the hardest thing to teach in football.
Perhaps being played out of position is why, right now, many Mexican players with excellent vision aren’t being used to their full potential, in my opinion.
— ASCENSO Bancomer MX (@AscensoMX) January 15, 2017
What stuck out most for me when researching these players was how the likes of Vilchis and Trejo had spent so long at their clubs despite barely receiving any game time. It’s not just with attackers that you see this happen in Mexican football either, just take Aarón Fernández as an example.
The goalkeeper has spent his whole career with Tigres. This season, at the age of 29, he made his league debut. At long last.
The pacto de caballeros and a lack of ambition and drive within some Mexican players (which Enrique Meza and Pedro Caixinha have spoken about) are the most likely causes of these wasted careers. It’s time for more Mexican players to be willing to move, maybe down a division, maybe abroad, and to be able to switch teams for free at the end of their contract.