Carlos Sanchez leads list of foreign-born players to watch for in Liga MX
When the ball started rolling in the 2016 Clausura, Liga MX had registered 163 foreign-born players. Eighty-one of them are foreigners, 60 are naturalized Mexican citizens and 22 are dual-nationals.
Mexican clubs like Pachuca have suggested a possible rule that would ask each club to have eight foreign-born players in its squad, while Mexico head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, has openly stated that the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) must work with league officials so Mexican youngsters can get their shot in the top flight.
However, it is a reality that in the past year Mexican clubs have gone out and signed top-caliber foreign-born footballers. The best example is Tigres, who last season brought in French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac and went on to win the 2015 Apertura.
With that in mind, we highlight five foreign-born footballers to keep an eye on as the Clausura picks up steam. Will one of them lead their club to a Liga MX title? Time will tell.
Oscar Murillo | 27 | Pachuca | Colombia
The former Atletico Nacional center-back has started twice for Pachuca this term. In those 180 minutes, Los Tuzos have picked up two wins, while only giving up one goal. The arrival of center-backs Murillo and Omar Gonzalez has helped Pachuca become one of Liga MX's most well-balanced teams, featuring a resilient attack and a reliable backline.
It's not new for Pachuca to sign an Atletico Nacional center-back to improve its backline. In 2005, the club signed Aquivaldo Mosquera from the Colombian club and went on to win two league titles, a CONCACAF Champions League and a Copa Sudamericana. Murillo's communication with Gonzalez, Stefan Medina and Emannuel Garcia has allowed the whole backline to feel comfortable. Murillo left Colombia as league champion, and he'll hope to repeat the feat in Mexico.
Maxi Moralez | 28 | Leon | Argentina
Sitting atop the table, Leon is on the verge of playing a difficult game at Tigres' El Volcan. Players like captain Luis "Chapito" Montes have openly admitted that the competition for starting places has made the team stronger, therefore helping it win its first three matches of the season.
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After starting the 2015-16 season at Serie A's Atalanta, Moralez landed in Leon during the offseason. The Argentinean midfielder has yet to start in the Clausura, but has already scored a goal at Veracruz. Before signing for La Fiera, he had played in 17 games for Atalanta, where he scored one goal and tallied five assists. It will not be long until Moralez claims one of the starting places in Leon's XI, and alongside compatriot Mauro Boselli, Leon could have one of the most dynamic forward duos in the league.
Carlos Sanchez | 31 | Monterrey | Uruguay
After winning the prestigious award of South American Footballer of the Year, Sanchez signed for Monterrey. The tendency is that after being named best player of the continent, the winner heads to Europe, but Sanchez agreed to come to the Mexican club.
With an attacking force that already includes Dorlan Pabon, Rogelio Funes Mori and Edwin Cardona, Sanchez has enjoyed his first three games with La Pandilla. In his past two leagues appearances, the Uruguayan midfielder has scored three goals. His versatility has brought more firepower to an already proven attack and provided needed reliability in the midfield. Sanchez is providing Gignac-esque numbers and performances.
Bryan Rabello | 21 | Santos Laguna | Chile
Rabello is the only player on this list who's not making his league debut in the Clausura. Santos signed him last summer, but because Los Guerreros experienced turbulent months between June and December of 2015, Rabello wasn't able to adapt to life in a new country, team and league.
With the arrival of head coach Luis Zubeldia, Rabello has the possibility to take off and prove why Sevilla signed him when he was just 18 years old. Zubeldia will make sure to give the Chilean all the tools so he can elevate his game and make his teammates better. He plays the game as a No. 10, something that's becoming less common in the game, but in Liga MX it is a position that coaches still like to utilize. Rabello can well become Liga MX's best playmaker.
Brian Lozano | 21| Club America | Uruguay
Last weekend against Pachuca at Estadio Azteca, Lozano got his first start in Liga MX. When he started plays on the right flank, he looked comfortable and created a lot of danger, but when coach Ignacio Ambriz moved him over to the left, his influence on the game was severely affected. He was subbed off to start the second half, but in that 1-4 loss to Los Tuzos, Lozano's performance was the only positive note on a dismal day.
The 21-year-old Uruguayan is a free-kick maestro, but what stands out about him is that he understands the challenges that he will face at America. With his dedication and enthusiasm, Lozano can become one of the best signings in the Ricardo Pelaez era.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.