Hirving 'Chucky' Lozano proving to be real deal for PSV Eindhoven, Mexico
It doesn't matter which way you frame the statistics, former Pachuca winger Hirving "Chucky" Lozano has had a dream start to life in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven.
The Mexico national has nine goals in his first eight Eredivisie games, has directly contributed to 15 goals -- 12 goals, three assists -- in his last 12 games for club and country and his estimated transfer value has gone up by a third in the last few months, according to Transfermarkt.
There have even been reports that Arsenal's chief scout has shown up at PSV games to have a closer look at Lozano as a potential replacement for Alexis Sanchez, even though Lozano only signed for the Dutch club last summer.
Lozano was hyped when he was breaking out with Pachuca and there was confidence that the 22-year-old would succeed in Europe, but no one really expected him to take to the Eredivisie so quickly and easily.
"We expected him to do well," Pachuca sporting director Marco Garces told ESPN FC on Tuesday. "He'd been extremely helpful in us winning two tournaments and building up a reputation, so we expected him to do well, but it's difficult to say we expected him to do so well."
Dutch journalist Jeroen Elshoff describes Lozano as "an enormous sensation in the Eredivisie" and "Chucky-mania" has already taken hold in Mexico. At the last El Tri game in San Luis Potosi last month, Lozano started on the bench and, with the team struggling to break down Trinidad & Tobago, the name "Chucky" was the one the crowd chanted, even though Carlos Vela, Oribe Peralta and Raul Jimenez were all among the substitutes.
Lozano, as if to confirm everything he touches at present turns to gold, responded by netting the equalizer. The buzz around Lozano is real and growing.
Frankly, if Mexico fans can't get excited by Lozano's recent achievements, they should check their pulses. This is a player who has been making steady and consistent steps forward in his career since breaking through and seems to match off-field stability with a serious drive to improve on it.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio was certainly very quick to jump on the Lozano bandwagon. It isn't difficult to see why, given the former Atletico Nacional manager's penchant for rapid and direct wingers.
"Not only is he a very good player with the potential to be an outstanding player, he is also a very good human being," said Osorio after Lozano's first goal for El Tri back in March 2016.
Garces notes that when he arrived at Pachuca, Lozano's courage, bravery and focus on the field stood out, but the winger wasn't starting on the youth teams at that time.
"He started getting better in the Under-17s and a lot better in the Under-20s," said Garces, who was an important cog in Javier Hernandez's transfer to Manchester United. "The first time he played for the first team, he scored. The first time he played for the national team, he scored. The first time he played for PSV, he scored."
It begs the question of just how far Lozano can go, especially with rumors already swirling about interest from bigger clubs.
"He seems to really like pressure, the challenge of going above and beyond so that makes it very difficult to know what his ceiling is," Garces added. "The more difficult the challenge, the more he performs."
PSV's Spanish-speaking coach, Phillip Cocu, has been moving Lozano between the right and left wing in a 4-3-3 formation, also giving him freedom to drift inside. Eight of the Mexico City native's last 10 goals have been finished first time, highlighting a goal-scoring knack that is exceeding even what he achieved at Pachuca, a team whose style isn't far removed from Cocu's.
Lozano -- who has a contract with PSV until 2023 -- admitted in a recent interview with NOS that moving to the Netherlands has been a culture shock, from seeing all the bicycles to learning how to separate the garbage, but the married father of two has also been aided in the adaption process by PSV.
The club's sporting director, Marcel Brands, originally expected Lozano to require six months to adapt to life in the Netherlands, according to quotes in an interview with De Telegraaf. Brands went on to explain that Lozano and his wife are taking Dutch classes and that the club not only bought the family a dog, but also arranged a sitter for it when the player and his family were away during the last international break.
Back in Mexico at Pachuca, Lozano's former club is also reaping the rewards of his success in Europe.
"It helps us a lot from a recruitment standpoint," Garces said. "We are now able to tell the candidates that come here that we have prepared players that are excelling in Europe. It's the same thing for the kids we already have. They know that dreams are possible because they watch him week in, week out."
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.