Guido Pizarro could be the missing link for Tigres in his return to the club
It's clear that Guido Pizarro has a special relationship with Tigres.
Even after he left the Liga MX club for Sevilla in the summer of 2017, the Argentine had no issue with proclaiming his gratitude for the Mexican powerhouse that helped forge his path to La Liga.
"Tigres is always going to be in my heart," said Pizarro in a March interview earlier this year. "God will say when I return [to the Liga MX team], but meanwhile I want to enjoy and take advantage of where I am."
That move back to Mexico proved to be much quicker than anticipated.
Following an average stint with Sevilla which only lasted one season, Tigres announced on June 7 that the 28-year-old would officially be making his return to the squad. Once the player landed in Monterrey a few days later, a sizable and boisterous gathering of fans welcomed back the midfielder who had previously blossomed with Tigres for four years before his short trip abroad.
During those four years, both Pizarro and Tigres looked unstoppable. While the former Lanus player quickly developed into the best defensive midfielder in the league, Tigres began to take control of the Mexican soccer scene with a Copa MX championship during the 2014 Clausura and two Liga MX titles in the 2015 Apertura and 2016 Apertura.
Pizarro also began to garner attention from the Argentina national team. After remaining on the bench for a handful of high-profile matches, the midfielder eventually made his debut for La Albiceleste in March of 2017. Although a spot in the World Cup roster never arrived in 2018, Pizarro's relevance to the national team had never been stronger thanks to his initial Liga MX run.
Now back with Tigres after leaving Sevilla, the Argentine couldn't have asked for a better reintroduction to his beloved squad. During July 15th's Campeon de Campeones battle against Santos Laguna -- his first official game back with Tigres -- Pizarro kicked off his season with a goal in the impressive 4-0 victory.
Following the result, Tigres and Pizarro have maintained their momentum with two wins in their first two weeks of the 2018 Apertura. Although a number of stats regarding tackles, interceptions and passes do plenty to highlight his significance during those matches, nothing showcases his importance to Tigres more than the fact that he has also been given the captain's armband.
When watching Pizarro on the field, there's no doubt that he is a vital part of their system. It's not a stretch to say that he is also the missing link between Tigres and another title. Despite the fact Rafael Carioca and Jesus Duenas have both previously excellent in his role, neither player is more aggressive or more defensively skilled than Pizarro.
Credit should be given to Tigres for winning the 2017 Apertura title in their first season without the former Sevilla player, but in the following 2018 Clausura, there seemed to be a Pizarro-shaped hole in the roster that eventually finished with a disappointing exit in the Liguilla quarterfinal stage. Coupled with a similar quarterfinal exit in the CONCACAF Champions League, the first half of this year was ultimately seen as a failure.
Looking ahead, Pizarro can help resolve these issues. On the field, the Argentine has shown that he can thrive with Carioca in the middle of the pitch. This, in turn, has allowed the versatile Duenas to occupy a place in the backline. As for the results, if the 4-0 win in July over the current title-holders wasn't enough of a positive sign of things to come, than the perfect start to the season surely is.
All that said, if Tigres and Pizarro truly want to make a statement early on in the Apertura, they'll have an enticing opportunity this Saturday when they take on Cruz Azul. At the moment, both sides are just two of four teams who have started the season off without a draw or loss. Under the bright lights of the massive Estadio Azteca. The battle should not be missed.
For Pizarro, the game will not only mark another chance to take Tigres one step closer to a successful season, but also a moment to continue to build upon the special bond he has with the Mexican club.