Liga MX grapples with changing landscape as Apertura starts
JUL 17, 2014 4:00p ET
International revival prompted a bit of domestic upheaval in Mexico over the past few months. Liga MX clubs expect to keep the majority of their stars in the league for the duration of their careers, though many of them shuffle from club to club during their careers. The resurgence of the Mexican national team, the sustained success of the youth national teams and the willingness of promising players to explore alternatives outside the country creates some uncertainty as the start of the Apertura campaign beckons this weekend.
Resolutions, as always, remain somewhat elusive given the difference in the valuations between Mexican stars, their current sides and the foreign clubs in pursuit of them. Raúl Jiménez, Miguel Layún and Alan Pulido feature prominently on the list of potential targets. Their uncertain futures -- Pulido, in particular, is in the middle of a protracted campaign to swap Tigres for Olympiakos -- leave the bedrock of the league and several clubs in a more fragile state as the new season approaches.
Liga MX leans on domestic stars to supply a firm foundation for the usual tumult during the summer transfer window. The swap meet -- including the departure of Clausura top scorer Enner Valencia from Liguilla runners-up Pachuca to West Ham United, pending a work permit -- brought the usual influx of talent from South America, prompted a raft of loan deals to fill out squads economically, shored up the bottom lines and shuffled a few familiar faces to new clubs. It is no surprise, though, to see the most important move involve one of the country’s two largest clubs and one of the national team’s biggest stars.
Club América responded to the uneven Clausura campaign by purchasing Oribe Peralta from Santos Laguna. Peralta represents both a significant reinforcement to lead the line and a statement of intent to shift back to the successful course charted during Miguel Herrera’s reign. The modest step backwards during the Clausura – combined with the ascent of Club León after its triumph in both tournaments last season – prompted a splashy outlay as a show of strength. It is an arrival designed to underscore America’s stature as well as its intent to return to the top of the league.
The sum of Peralta’s arrival and several defensive changes -- Lanús stalwart Paolo Goltz arrived to fill the void left by the departures of Aquivaldo Mosquera (Pachuca) and Maza Rodriguez (Cruz Azul) -- places América atop the list of contenders to depose León this season. The rest of the field may take some time to emerge with Cruz Azul and Toluca among the likeliest teams to join Las Aguilas in close pursuit of the holders.
Guadalajara will hope to join the chasing pack after signing veterans Fernando Arce, Angel Reyna and Carlos Salcido during the summer, but the club must focus first and foremost on accumulating the points required to steer clear of relegation. The continued chaos and the poor results over the past few tournaments leave Chivas in a perilous spot. The state of affairs somehow consigns one of the two largest clubs in the country to scrap with promoted city rivals Leones Negros, Puebla and Veracruz to avoid the unthinkable descent into Ascenso MX next spring.
The one bright line between the top and the bottom of the table comes from the importance of domestic players throughout. León rose to the top of Liga MX by building a core of domestic players like Luis Montes, Carlos Peña, José Juan Vázquez and then supplementing the ranks with astute foreign signings. Pachuca relied on its youth development scheme to fuel its surprising push to the Clausura final. América -- a side often seduced by foreign signings given its vast wealth and its success in that department -- turned to Peralta this summer to prepare for another title push. Chivas, as always, leaned on its firmly held philosophies to reinforce for its relegation push.
The tendency to look inward and retain top players makes the next month or so particularly intriguing. Foreign clubs continue to evaluate top Mexican transfer targets and pursue them with some vigor. Liga MX sides churn out talented prospects to help fill the void for club and country, but the idea of losing more and more of them along the way poses a potential threat to the carefully constructed balance. The period between now and the end of the summer transfer window will offer a glimpse of the potential toll extracted and solidify the expectations as the Apertura cranks into gear.