Cruz Azul, Pachuca big winners while Chivas lose in Liga MX transfer window
MEXICO CITY -- It used to be that Mexico's transfer season was all of an insane two-day bonanza somewhere in the Riviera Maya. Though it still exists, nothing truly compared to the exhilaration, the constant misinformation and the outright illegality of the Liga MX Draft. Because the Bosman Rule does not apply in Mexico, the Draft has always been the league's most flagrant affront of the rule of law for negotiations in Europe and elsewhere.
Though it's scheduled to be put out to pasture in the coming years, the Liga MX Draft was always an intense microcosm of transfer deadline day almost everywhere else in the world. Nowadays, teams can and often will continue signing players well into the summer, usually culminating to coincide with the European markets.
Now that the market has finally died down in most parts of the world -- not to mention that the Apertura 2017 is nearly at its midway point -- we can now reflect on who the big winners and big losers of the transfer season were this summer in Mexico.
WINNER: CRUZ AZUL
Tasked not only with ending the team's longstanding trophy drought but also avoiding the ignominy of relegation talk, Cruz Azul made several, savvy signings this summer, the biggest of which is likely Spain's Edgar Mendez. With six goals between them, he and Chile forward Felipe Mora have already combined to give La Maquina a consistent one-two punch.
Their play has been so good that it's masked the middling contributions of the other major signing, Argentina's Alejandro Faurlin. The steady play of the new boys, coupled with a strong base of players and the overwhelming confidence of manager Paco Jemez, looks to be promising for Cruz Azul moving forward.
Though Nicolas Castillo has been lights out in attack for the Mexico City giants, help was needed to bolster a team with several holes in the starting lineup. Joffre Guerron, a player mostly sidelined without a club for the past year, was signed to take some of the offensive pressure from Castillo. So far, it has not worked out.
Chile midfielder Marcelo Diaz was an exciting addition but early returns have been pretty stale, with the hope that he can provide a necessary spark in the middle of the pitch moving forward. Meanwhile, manager Francisco Palencia has been fired and hopes of making the playoffs after a down season are dimming.
How do you avoid becoming irrelevant after two of your biggest stars exit the club in 12 months? For ambitious Pachuca owner Jesus Martinez, the answer was to shock the Mexican market and bring in AC Milan castoff and Japan international Keisuke Honda just weeks after outgoing Hirving Lozano was confirmed as a new signing for PSV.
While Honda will bring star power and attention to the team, perhaps most appealing was Pachuca's coup of Chilean striker Edson Puch, who was lights out last year at Necaxa. Angelo Sagal, another Chilean, can develop into nice signing as well: the versatile forward has already been called up to his national team, scoring twice in 2017 against Iceland and Burkina Faso.
Perhaps only Athletic Bilbao and a handful of other clubs can understand how difficult it is for Chivas to sign quality players year in and year out. After a league/cup double last season, Guadalajara was dealt a double whammy of fatigue and injury when half of its starting XI was selected to represent Mexico at the Confederations Cup and later, the Gold Cup.
After spending big on players like Rodolfo Pizarro to win last season, the team passed on signings this summer, instead relying on its plentiful youth reserves only the early returns have not been promising. Chivas is the only team in Liga MX yet to win a match this season and has the league's second-worst offense, with just five goals scored.
Things didn't seem too promising for Tijuana when they dropped the season's first three games and were able to only muster a draw at Puebla, the league's worst team at the time. As it turns out, new manager Eduardo Coudet and the enormous haul of incoming players just needed time to connect.
Xolos has won three games in a row since then and Coudet's dynamic blend of aggressive, offensive soccer has been on full display of late. Gustavo Bou, the vaunted Argentina striker brought in last summer, has four goals while Damian Musto, a planned replacement for Guido Rodriguez, has been stellar in the middle of the field.
Tijuana is certainly clicking, and there's worse news for the rest of the league: the team signed Paraguay international and former Roma forward Juan Iturbe as well as Ecuador striker Miller Bolanos in the second half of August. The best may yet be to come.
Now left without their manager, the Esmeraldas have continued to rely on the same old players in the Apertura 2017 as their summer signings have been decidedly underwhelming, which has contributed to their poor start.
Strikers Jorge Pereyra and Alvaro Ramos have combined for all of one goal in 12 appearances between the two of them, while team legend Mauro Boselli continues to carry the team offensively even at 32. It doesn't look any better at the back: Ivan Piris has played in just one game this season after being lured away from Monterrey. Aside from Colombia defender Andres Mosquera, this has been a mostly disastrous group of incoming players.
WINNER: BOTH MONTERREY CLUBS
Monterrey sits atop the league in large part to Aviles Hurtado, whom they pried away from Club America. Across town, Tigres added to an already scare-inducing front line by adding West Ham's Enner Valencia to a group that already includes Andre-Pierre Gignac and Eduardo Vargas.
Tigres also addressed the loss of Guido Pizarro by signin Rafael Carioca, a late addition who has yet to show off his full potential. The embarrassment of riches for both clubs is such that Monterrey signed former Argentina international goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo to a big contract: Carrizo is currently backing up Hugo Gonzalez.
It's true that they got Guido Rodriguez and Mateus Uribe to strengthen a big part of their midfield but they also whiffed on Aviles Hurtado and Jonathan dos Santos this summer in their search to make impact signings.
Once upon a time, this is the team that would sign the likes of Ivan Zamorano, Francois-Omam Biyik and Hugo Sanchez, plucking them from foreign markets for big transfer fees. Now, they're forced to spend on players they hope will make a difference but who are far from the big names they were once accustomed to.
Eric Gomez is an editor for ESPN's One Nación. You can follow him on Twitter: @EricGomez86.