Guido Pizarro's move to Sevilla shows that Liga MX is a great proving ground
Guido Pizarro finished last season as Liga MX's best in the following categories: distance covered (232.68 km), completed passes (1,225), received passes (1,092) and touches on the ball (1,547). He was second in passing accuracy after completing 88.2 percent of his passes in 2,065 minutes played, too, but as Tigres continue to enjoy the fruits of their golden era, Pizarro has left the Monterrey side to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing in Europe.
His new home is Sevilla FC, and his new head coach is Eduardo "Toto" Berizzo, who during his time as Celta de Vigo manager called the Argentinean midfielder several times to check on his situation, and if he'd be willing to join him in Galicia. The reunion took time to turn into a reality and it will now happen in Andalusia instead.
Although it took Pizarro time to win over Tigres' fans, his class on the field was undeniable. He was a workhorse who took pride in building plays from the midfield. That skill was known since his time at Lanus.
Tigres manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti saw Pizarro as a player to solidify the club's starting XI. In the four years Pizarro lived in Monterrey, Tigres reached 10 finals and went on to win four. With him on the field, Tigres became a team few opponents could tame because they rarely allowed the opponent to take possession away from them.
One of the last mementos Pizarro left for Tigres supporters happened earlier this year in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Pachuca. In the 17th minute of the match, Pizarro's face collided with Oscar Murillo's forehead, provoking a severe hemorrhage in the midfielder's nose. With a bloodied nose and mouth, the 27-year-old played until the 74th minute. After the game, the club confirmed the news that Pizarro had suffered a fractured nose, yet he had kept playing through the pain.
Days later he would miss the 110th edition of the Monterrey Derby, in which Monterrey defeated Tigres 1-0, and Pizarro's absence became one of the main reasons to explain Tigres' defeat.
Ten finals in four years is a historic mark for Tigres, and the idea that they could have won more than four championships is always a topic of debate in Mexican football. Pizarro was a major reason why Tigres continually reached the final in every tournament they entered; under Ferretti, they have become the team that best understands how to get results in Liga MX. Certainly life without Pizarro will be tough for the club, but there's plenty of optimism for what's ahead.
"When I came here, I never thought this would happen," said a teary-eyed Pizarro in Monterrey's International Airport, minutes away from boarding a plane that would take him to Spain. "I appreciate it a lot. I feel like I don't deserve all this love, which you're giving me right now," he said to the hundreds of fans who came to say goodbye.
"You will always be in my heart. We're going to see each other again. I'm going to come back and we're going to fight, together, for championships."
As he arrived at Sevilla's train station, Santa Justa, a huge number of sevillistas waited for him. Among them was a young lady wearing a blue Tigres jersey. When Pizarro saw the young lady, a huge smile took over his face. His connection with Tigres will last for a lifetime but in Sevilla, he will not only represent Tigres -- he will represent Liga MX as well. What Pizarro achieved in Liga MX makes him into one of the best foreigners to have come through the league.
Pizarro is not the first foreigner to leave Liga MX for Sevilla FC. In 2007, Colombian center-back Aquivaldo Mosquera left Pachuca for the Nervionenses. Mosquera had been an integral part of the Pachuca side that won the Copa Sudamericana in 2006, and all signs suggested that he would succeed in Europe, but he never reached his optimal level at Sevilla and in 2009, he returned to Liga MX to play for Club America.
However, with Pizarro, the story is bound to be different. As Sevilla's new defensive midfielder, this move is an opportunity that could put Pizarro in Argentina's national team picture once and for all. Joining forces with Ever Banega in Sevilla's midfield will be something that his national team manager, Jorge Sampaoli, will need to watch closely.
During his official presentation with Sevilla on Monday, Pizarro told the reporters where he was coming from and what type of player he is.
"I come from Liga MX, which is a league that over here in Europe might not be well known. But in the last years, the Mexican clubs have been able to compete against South American clubs. "I'm a central defensive midfielder, with a a lot of mobility, who's always trying to help his teammates. I'm always asking for the ball," he said.
At Sevilla, Pizarro knows that every minute will be golden and if he is able to connect with sevillistas as he did with Tigres' supporters, he will excel in Spain. If Pizarro succeeds in Spain, his case can be used as a prime example that Liga MX is a great league for players to hone skills that could one day will help them stand out in a competitive league like La Liga.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.