After the 2010 World Cup, we saw a trend with Mexicans going across the pond to Europe. From Efraín Juárez, Pablo Barrera, to Chicharito, it seemed like this was the new wave of Mexican football. However, not all had the best time abroad. Efraín Juárez found himself back in Mexico by 2012, Pablo Barrera lasted the same amount of time signing with Cruz Azul in 2012.
There was an upswing in the mid-2010s with roughly twenty Mexicans abroad (at different levels), but that trend started dying out shortly after. Top names like Giovani dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Jonathan dos Santos, Diego Reyes, Carlos Salcedo, etc. made their way back to North America. Although many had successful seasons abroad, the comfort of North America was able to win them back.
Luckily for Mexico, there is a slow build-up of momentum as we start the 2020s and journey to the 2022 and 2026 World Cups. Eugenio Pizzuto, the 18-year-old midfielder who took the bronze ball home at the 2019 U-17 World Cup, has found a new home at Lille OSC. Gerardo Arteaga, the now-former top left-back at Santos Laguna, has signed with KRC Genk in Belgium. The rumors surrounding Chivas star JJ Macías only continue to build, as Real Sociedad seems locked in on the 20-year-old striker. Monterrey center-back César Montes also has European eyes following his name, including Valencia.
As one can see, Mexico and its fans can be happy with the recent movement and possible movement in 2020. However, it really cannot stop there. Mexico needs to take advantage of these opportunities if it wants to start breaking that #16 FIFA rank. Rivals USA has several players at top teams, and although Mexico has been the better national team since 2016, it cannot sit back and rely on the glory days of several years ago.
Mexico’s biggest enemy is truly itself. The untapped potential is tremendous, as Mexico could be one of the top teams in the world if it weren’t for its deeply rooted problems, including greed, corruption, and lack of ambition. The biggest shame as a Mexico fan isn’t the ‘curse of the round of 16′ – it is that the round of 16 should not be the stage in which Mexico loses in the World Cup.
As of right now, Mexico has a plethora of talent from the U-17 up. Creating a 23-man roster for the 2021 Olympics might be quite tricky, even more so than in 2012. To make the ’round of 16′ a thing of the past, it has to continue with European moves. If anything, Mexico needs to look back at 2013 at how close they were at failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. As a top nation in CONCACAF, Mexico cannot have amnesia. If Mexico doesn’t keep the ambition high, teams like the US will happily take its spot soon.