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Liga MX W2W4: Mexican youngsters out to make mark

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 By Eric Gomez

Herrera's rebuilding of America among biggest takeaways from Liga MX draft

America's Pablo Aguilar is headed to Tijuana after a Liga MX draft blockbuster.
America vice-captain Pablo Aguilar is headed to Tijuana after a Liga MX draft blockbuster.

Wednesday's Liga MX draft provided more bang for the buck than originally anticipated. Winter meetings in Mexican football usually feature a smaller number of transfers as teams have a shorter amount of time to gear up for the following season. But this time around, the shortened transfer window was no impediment to a few blockbuster deals getting done.

The draft featured a semifinalist from last season bizarrely appearing to dismantle its strong defensive unit. It had one team, in dire need of signings, unable to make any purchases because it still owed its players money from the prior tournament, while also having to talk their new coach off the ledge. One player joined his eighth team in nine years. Finally, a squad entrenched in the relegation battle attempted to stave it off with a flurry of top signings.

Behind those front-facing headlines lies a bevy of hidden information. Here are the biggest takeaways from the Liga MX draft, and what lies next during the still-open transfer window:

Uncertain times for America

It's unclear to many what Miguel Herrera was doing when he decided to ship his team's vice-captain and defensive pillar Pablo Aguilar to Tijuana for what was essentially a three-for-one deal. After reports surfaced that Aguilar asked to be transferred, the Paraguay international flatly denied the story.

What appears to be closer to the truth is simple: Aguilar and fellow Paraguayan Miguel Samudio (who was transferred to Queretaro) were not favorites of Herrera because of what he perceived to be disciplinary lapses that undermined his leadership of the team. Furthermore, both are over 30 years old and both free up foreigner spots to be potentially used on a striker, an item at the top of the team's winter wish list.

The team is still in talks to get rid of Colombian winger Darwin Quintero, Argentine striker Silvio Romero and Paraguayan midfielder Cecilio Dominguez, though those moves will very likely need to take place with non-Mexican clubs as the transfer window wears on.

Chivas gets its Ronaldo

After Chivas whiffed on transfer target Henry Martin (the former Xolos man was one of the three sent to America for Aguilar), Matias Almeyda set his sights on Santos youth product Ronaldo Cisneros, who has been a star for Mexico at the U-20 level.

It was the club's second dealing with Santos in just over a week, as Gael Sandoval also joined the team in exchange for holding midfielder Joe Juan "Gallito" Vazquez. Cisneros expects to partner up with Alan Pulido at the head of Guadalajara's offensive unit, while Sandoval can play on the wing or in the middle of the midfield for Almeyda, offering both tactical flexibility and depth.

Young phenomenon Ronaldo Cisneros leaves Santos Laguna for Chivas.
Ronaldo Cisneros will join up with Chivas after the Mexico U-20 international impressed at Santos Laguna.

But perhaps Chivas' best move this offseason was securing the continuity of starting goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota, who renewed his loan deal with the team after uncertainty stemming from parent club Pachuca's apparent desire to call him back.

No money, more problems for Veracruz

Los Tiburones appear to be walking down a similar path Chiapas travelled on when they were relegated from Liga MX earlier in 2017. Veracruz was shunned at this year's draft until assurances could be made to the rest of the owners that the team would pay its players and liquidate debt stemming from last season.

Crazy rumors surrounded Veracruz all day Wednesday, including one stating newly-signed coach Guillermo Vazquez would leave the team following its inability to sign but one player, former Toluca winger Carlos Esquivel. Another rumor indicated Veracruz's failure to get any business done was because all Mexican banks were closed on Tuesday, and their owner was thus unable to finance deals until the next day. Only in Liga MX.

Worst of all, Veracruz's competitors at the bottom were able to sign players and bolster their rosters for the Clausura 2018, including Queretaro, who arguably stole the show by purchasing former Pachuca attacker Edson Puch (who is the aforementioned player joining his eighth club in nine years) and former America defender Samudio.

All quiet at the top

Predictably, Tigres and Monterrey were quiet in this edition of the draft, with Monterrey still able to make transactions with other Liga MX teams until Dec. 29, due to its upcoming Copa MX final against Pachuca.

The Liga MX champions, on the other hand, refused to budge amid Pumas' desire to repurchase former attacker Ismael Sosa. On the other hand, Argentine midfielder Lucas Zelarayan is apparently trying to leave the team, but could not find a suitor within the league to buy him.

Monterrey might make a blockbuster move, though it won't involve players. Current manager Antonio Mohamed is apparently on the hot seat, with former manager Victor Manuel Vucetich rumored to take over in either January or prior to the 2018-19 season.

What comes next?

There are definitely more deals in the pipeline before the Clausura 2018 kicks off in January. America will continue searching for a striker, while Pachuca and Leon, both owned by the same family, are actively seeking players abroad according to multiple reports. Expect Monterrey and Tigres to unload some players, though few signings are expected.

In the end, though just 38 moves were made, there will be plenty of new faces gracing Liga MX pitches by the time the Clausura 2018 rolls around.

Eric Gomez is an editor for ESPN's One Nación. You can follow him on Twitter: @EricGomez86.

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