Mexicans looking for big moves after World Cup
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Top clubs can and often do invest large sums these days on scouting intelligence, the latest statistic-producing models to track players' development and on a global network of scouts.
That should reduce the element of unknown when the World Cup swings around and a handful of players enjoy the games of their lives and become "the next big thing." But, as the excellent book "The Nowhere Men" by Michael Calvin highlights, things aren't always so rational at the top end of world soccer. The World Cup remains a window of opportunity for players to stand up, prove themselves and catch the eye of clubs looking to replenish squads for next season.
Inevitably, there will be a wave of transfers either during or in the immediate aftermath of Brazil 2014.
In Mexico's case, there are a disproportionate amount of players who are likely to move on this summer, both from the Liga MX and among the European-based players.
Mexico's European-based legion:
Javier Hernandez, striker; 26 years old
Most will already know "Chicharito's" situation. He remains a Manchester United player, but didn't get enough playing time last season and is unlikely to next season with Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie at the club.
Europe's top clubs already know all about Hernandez, but goals at the World Cup would re-emphasize that he is still ready to play at the very top level, if given enough playing time, and persuade team owners to reach for their checkbooks.
His first task though is getting into Mexico's XI, which is far from certain at present.
Hector Moreno, center back; 26
It is an open secret that Spanish club Espanyol needs money. Selling Moreno would be a quick-fire way of getting some after he has impressed with his consistency over the past two seasons.
Now one of Mexico's more experienced players, featuring in Europe and having the tutelage of Louis van Gaal at AZ Alkmaar under his belt, Moreno is ready for the next step up: regular Champions League football.
The rumors surrounding Moreno don't seem to stop, with teams in Italy, England, Germany and Russia all interested in paying what one report in Mexico says is a 20 million euro buyout clause.
Andres Guardado, midfielder; 27
"El Principito" has been an enigma in recent times, with problems defining exactly what his role should be for both club and country.
A loan spell from parent club Valencia to Bayer Leverkusen in the second half of last season didn't work out and while he is still has a contract with the La Liga outfit, the assumption in the Spanish press is that he'd be on the move if the right offer came in.
Guillermo Ochoa, goalkeeper; 28
The former Club America goalkeeper comes into the World Cup as a free agent and with three seasons in Europe at Ajaccio under his belt.
While Ochoa's preferred destination is within France -- perhaps to Marseille -- there is interest elsewhere, the player himself has stated.
The only problem in the short term is that the popular Ochoa may not be Mexico's starting 'keeper in Brazil.
Carlos Vela, forward; 25
This is cheating slightly. Vela is not in the Mexico squad. But he could well still become the best Mexican footballer of his generation and is likely also to be on the move.
Real Sociedad's Vela has a buy-back clause with Arsenal, while Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have even been mentioned as possible destinations.
It remains a blow to Mexico's chances that he will miss the World Cup.
From the Liga MX:
Miguel Layun, wing-back; 25
Layun is the Mexican in the Liga MX best prepared to move to Europe. Layun possesses a European Union passport, has already experienced Serie A and has developed into a fine player over the last two years.
Equally comfortable with both feet and on both flanks, Layun is a threat with his raw pace, strength and distribution of the ball. Mexico will rely on him heavily during the World Cup and he is capable of special goals from distance.
Layun would perfectly suit a Spanish, French or Italian team that play a 3-5-2 system. Club America is unlikely to stand in his way if a top club did come in.
Carlos Pena, midfield; 24
Whether the pressure has got to him, or fatigue -- mental or physical -- has set in recently for "Gullit," it is difficult to know, but Pena seems to have lost some confidence and his starting place for Mexico.
But that doesn't mean a move to Europe -- which he has stated is his dream -- will not happen. Pena has been a major force in the Liga MX since Leon was promoted in 2012. His goal-threat from midfield, physicality and will to drive his side forward mean his loss of form is likely temporary.
European clubs are certainly watching on, as he has admitted.
Alan Pulido, striker; 23
Olympiakos are on Pulido's case and the forward has stated he would like to move to Greece. The only problem is a confusing contractual situation with Tigres that seems to have slowed down the move.
Pulido's strength is his all-round ability. He can pass, take players on, head, finish and drop deep to receive the ball, although he may not feature too much in the World Cup.
Raul Jimenez, striker; 23
A huge fan of Mexico legend Hugo Sanchez, Jimenez is sure to move to Europe at some point in his career and he has been linked recently with Porto -- where Mexicans Hector Herrera and Diego Reyes currently play.
Best known for his spectacular overhead kick for Mexico against Panama in World Cup qualifying, Jimenez burst onto the scene for Club America in 2011 and has netted 32 league goals since.
Marco Fabian, attacking midfield/winger; 24
Fabian could yet play a starring role for Mexico in the World Cup and has two goals in the four warm-up matches.
Often elusive and frustratingly inconsistent, Fabian nevertheless has undeniable talent that, if harnessed in the right way, would be a major asset to plenty of European clubs.
He is currently on loan at Cruz Azul from Chivas, but "La Maquina" has a buyout clause, so any negotiation could be complicated.