The latest episode in the ongoing saga between the Mexican national team and reluctant star Carlos Vela may finally produce a peaceful resolution.
Mexico manager Miguel Herrera brought the simmering situation to a head by naming Vela on a list of 10 European-based players selected for against Netherlands (Nov. 12 in Amsterdam) and Belarus (Nov. 18 in Borisov) next month. The risky gambit — Vela, after all, could duck out once more, though he would face potential FIFA sanctions at the club level — might finally yield his return to the national side after a three-and-a-half year absence after Herrera went publicly to express his confidence on Vela’s possible return to El Tri.
“Carlos will be there in Holland,” Herrera told ESPN’s Futbol Picante on Wednesday afternoon. “Of the call-ups, all will be coming.”
Article continues below ...
There’s still been no official word from the 25-year-old Real Sociedad player as to whether he will indeed be ending his self-imposed international exile, which stretches back to March 2011. And Herrera didn’t make it clear if he had spoken personally to Vela and received the positive answer directly from the player, going so far as to tweet the following mesage below:
De los convocados que militan en clubes europeos van todos, confirmados al 100%
Herrera likely decided this constant turmoil needed another and purportedly more decisive verdict. The two sides have spent much of the past few years circling around each other and sparking controversy at every turn. Vela’s future with El Tri serves as a constant and rancorous topic of national debate. His decision to prioritize his club future at Real Sociedad over several major international competitions sparked a furious reaction from a country devoted to its national side and stunned one of its top stars would shun it time and again.
The reasons behind Vela’s lingering ambivalence shift depending on his mood and his engagement on the topic. Vela is not the steadiest of figures, the sort of reliable touchstone to build upon during a World Cup cycle. He needs the right situation and the right comfort level to thrive. He never found it at Arsenal or with Mexico, but he secured it to stunning effect at Sociedad with 42 goals over the previous three seasons.
If Vela is in the correct frame of mind, then he can devastate the opposition. He is a clever, willing runner through the lines and an incisive figure in the penalty area. His technical ability allows him to create for others and finish when presented with opportunities, while his mobility and his movement presents a constant threat to the opposition. His considerable production for Sociedad reflects the sort of impact he exerts when placed in the ideal setting, though his current form (one goal from nine appearances in a struggling side) fails to meet those lofty standards.
Mexico does not possess a player of similar menace at the moment. Javier Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos flicker from time to time for both club and country, but neither ravages the opposition as regularly. Oribe Peralta might contribute more in the buildup as a target man and prove just as ruthless inside the penalty area, but he isn’t as dynamic. Hector Herrera and Raul Jimenez aren’t ready to shoulder such considerable loads, though Herrera looms as a vital piece in the midfield three and Jimenez now finds himself in a wonderful spot to continue his development with top-level opposition.
The opportunity presented — adding a potential match-winner into a capable side craving attacking alternatives — warrants the public relations gamble created by including him now. There are no competitive repercussions for a pair of year-end friendlies. This window offers the perfect time for experiments small and large.
Herrera continues to stretch and survey the options at his disposal in a bid to assess his player pool. His choices for the post-World Cup friendlies to date reflect the need to prepare potential selections for the CONCACAF Gold Cup next summer and the Copa America in 2016. His roster for this excursion includes a more seasoned group stationed in Europe to make the best use of a rare foray outside North America. The fundamental goal — evolving a side with concerns about breaking teams down in possession and questions in defense and in the midfield three — remains largely the same.
It is a task that inevitably requires more than just a look at the on-field impact. Herrera wants to bring Vela into camp now to gauge his fit within his approach (he projects as a second striker in Herrera’s preferred 5-3-2 setup) and his squad dynamic. The former requires some attention after dos Santos and Hernandez both toiled to find their places within this regime, but the latter is considerably more important given the ongoing drama and the potential effect on team chemistry.
Whether this is the right time to force such a conflict point is another consideration entirely. Vela expressed concerns about his health and his recent displays in a press conference last week. His team is mired in the midst of a poor run and his manager is seemingly on the way out the door. His priorities — as they have over the past few years — may once again lay elsewhere.
Then again, there are no lasting conclusions required if Vela pulls out yet again. Herrera may say he will cast aside Vela for the long term if he proves reluctant or unwilling this time around, but a player of Vela’s caliber can always force his way into the reckoning with the proper atonement. This entreaty — the latest in the series of final offers — reflects the state of play now, but it does not necessary preclude a course correction later.
It is a point the Mexican public knows all too well at this point given the back and forth between Vela and the national team setup over the past few years. Herrera once again has provided a path toward resolution. It is now in Vela’s hands to decide whether he wants to end the drama once and for all or sustain the frustrating status quo for some time to come.
Information from Goal.com was used in this report.