Sebastian Abreu, Gustavo Matosas among Uruguayans to leave mark in Mexico
As Mexico prepares to face Uruguay in their first match since the World Cup, it bears mentioning that the tiny South American nation has exported more than its share of players, coaches and even referees to the Mexican game in its history. Some of the most successful teams and eras in Liga MX history have had Uruguayans at the forefront, making the country an integral part of Mexico's soccer story.
Here are 10 people from Uruguay who have left their mark on Mexican football:
Following a subpar season at Nacional, one of Uruguay's biggest clubs, Toluca executive Rafael Lebrija rolled the dice on Sanchez as a sidekick for legendary striker Jose Cardozo. The gambit worked. Sanchez won two Liga MX titles and a CONCACAF crown in six years at Toluca, scoring 85 league goals in the process. The talented and pacey forward also took over the mantle for Cardozo after he retired, before moving on to Europe. After a pair of seasons in Germany, Sanchez made a big-money move back to Mexico with Club America.
The sport's ultimate journeyman played for seven clubs in Mexico, finishing top scorer a whopping four times between 1999 and 2008. El Loco became the first foreigner to score for both Tigres and Monterrey in the Clasico Regio, and played both sides of the Clasico Joven rivalry with Club America and Cruz Azul. When he left the Mexican game, Abreu had scored more than 110 goals and cemented his reputation as one of the best foreigners ever to play in the country. At 42, the former Uruguay international is still puttering around as an active player.
Yes, the former Olympiacos and Manchester City striker was born in Mexico and played for the national team, but El Tri fandom were unaware of the mercurial Castillo until after he was raised in Uruguay and moved to Greece. The son of Nery Castillo Sr., a Uruguayan forward for Atletico Potosino, Castillo was usually a bigger story for his antics off the field (remember that infamous press conference?) than for what he did on it. However, his highlight reel goal against Brazil in the 2007 Copa America will remain as one of the top moments in Mexican soccer history.
The former manager coached seven teams in Mexico and was a fixture of Liga MX sidelines toward the end of the 20th century. El Maño was well liked and enjoyed a lengthy career as a boss all over Latin America, gaining South American Coach of the Year honors in 2005 as he led Paraguay's national team. After his time as a head coach ended, Ruiz completed his career -- and his life -- in Mexico, working with former pupil Jose Cardozo as an assistant.
Before Ricardo Ferretti took over as Tigres' version of Sir Alex Ferguson, there was no bigger figure in the team's history than Miloc, the Uruguayan manager who won the team's first two league titles in 1978 and 1982. Aside from his stellar run at Tigres, Miloc coached both Chivas and Club America, to less success. In his younger days, Miloc once won an award given out to the most "Gentlemanly Player" in Liga MX, during his time in Morelia.
Since 2013, Uruguayan managers have dominated Mexican soccer. No other country claims more titles in that span from the bench than the South American nation. In addition, no other manager from the country has gained more recognition for his work than Matosas with Leon. In 2012, he brought the team up from the second division. Two years later, he had won back-to-back titles in Mexico's top division, the first time any coach did that since 2004. Though his success waned with other clubs, he managed to win the CONCACAF Champions League at Club America in 2015.
Best remembered by football fans as the man who presided over the 1990 World Cup final, Codesal was also a controversial referee when working in Mexico's top league. Following an invitation to come over from Uruguay and simultaneously work and teach as an official, Codesal eventually gained Mexican citizenship and represented the country at international tournaments. In his retirement, he has worked as a television analyst, a Liga MX executive and a university lecturer for his other career -- Codesal is a licensed gynecologist.
Carlos Maria Morales
With more than 100 goals to his name in Mexico, Morales became synonymous with Toluca as the Diablos Rojos ran roughshod over Liga MX towards the end of the 1990s. Morales played for five clubs in Mexico and even represented some Ascenso MX squads. After retiring as an active player and winning three championships in Mexico (two for Toluca, one for Pachuca in their second division days), Morales tried his hand at management in the country, taking over San Luis in 2013.
Hector Hugo Eugui
In his playing days, the talented Eugui was known worldwide as the player who never missed a penalty kick. He was also adept in open play, as the former offensive midfielder won the Best Player award in Mexico after his performance with a Toluca side that won the title in 1975. As a manager, Eugui has spent the vast majority of his 37-year coaching career in Mexico, famously taking the Ciudad Juarez Indios to a semifinal run in 2009 when the team had been in peril of falling to the second division when he took over.
Cesilio de los Santos
A wing-back for Bella Vista in Uruguay, De Los Santos was scouted by Club America toward the end of the 1980s, where he quickly established himself as a dual threat on offense and defense. With the club, he won five trophies, including a league title and the 1991 Copa Interamericana. Following his playing career, De Los Santos has settled in Mexico, currently serving as a television analyst for Liga MX games, as well as working as a studio pundit.