Club America's big-name targets evoke past eras of Liga MX success
MEXICO CITY -- It's safe to say Miguel Herrera is starting to get a little antsy.
Asked again this week about the ongoing negotiations to bring new signings to Club America, Herrera, the team's manager, bristled at the media's insistence on the topic.
"When we have something, I'll be the first to tell you," Herrera said, eyebrows furrowing. "I'm the first one who wants to scream out that we have something."
Many names have been bandied about for the Mexico City giants, with still no official signings other than the ones obtained during the Liga MX draft last December. It's beyond clear Herrera wants to bolster his offense, and the team is actively looking to replace Darwin Quintero and Silvio Romero.
What's been most surprising about this round of transfer rumors is the scope and stature of the players being scouted. Jeremy Menez, the former PSG and AC Milan attacker, has been mentioned as a likely signing. PSV striker Luuk de Jong, he of 14 caps for the Dutch national team, also reportedly is being looked at.
For years now, Club America essentially had backed off from the splashy, Europe-based signings that defined them in the past in order to focus on Mexico and the South American market. Ironically, it's been Tigres who have replaced America as the team constantly rocking the Mexican transfer windows.
Their signings of French players Andy Delort, Timothee Kolodziejczak and, of course, Andre-Pierre Gignac have dominated Mexican news cycles over the past few seasons. Chilean international Eduardo Vargas and Ecuador's Enner Valencia also were huge gets for the Monterrey club. The strategy has been most productive. Since their defeat in the Apertura 2014 final, Tigres has won three titles, one against Club America.
Other teams have joined in on bringing top names to Liga MX over the last few seasons, with Queretaro's surprise grab of Ronaldinho Gaucho in 2014 among the biggest signings in the country's history.
As trophies have dried up for Club America of late (the team was unceremoniously trounced by Tigres in last season's semifinals), the fans' shout to reclaim the club's old glory seemingly has been answered by management.
After all, this is the team that brought in Ivan Zamorano after the Chilean had spent the last decade playing for Real Madrid and Inter Milan. Zamorano promptly led the team to glory and the Verano 2002 title before moving back to Chile and retiring with boyhood club Colo-Colo. A few seasons later, America relied on former Argentina international and Lazio star Claudio Lopez to spearhead a talented team to the Clausura 2005 title.
But the strategy was not foolproof. Former Brazil international and Deportivo La Coruna star Djalminha was disappointing in his five-game stint with America before injuries forced the playmaker to retire. Other big-money signings, regardless of origin, where chided as disappointments, such as Argentina's Daniel Bilos and Lucas Castroman, who were brought in a decade ago and played a combined 14 league games for the team.
Eventually, the team backed off the strategy, seemingly for good. The emergence of MLS as a top-tier destination for want-away players in Europe, and the sharp economic blows taken by America's parent company, Televisa, also had been major factors.
Under Herrera, the team ended its eight-year league title drought when it dramatically beat Cruz Azul in penalties for the Clausura 2013 crown, with players coming from Mexico and South America. A year later, under Antonio Mohamed, they defeated Tigres to pick up their 12th league championship and become Liga MX's most successful club.
But the recent dominance from Tigres, Monterrey and a handful of other squads who have ventured out of the usual territories to make a splash (Pachuca's signing of Keisuke Honda comes to mind) has forced the team's hand to some degree.
Though Menez's signing is perhaps closest according to reports from Turkey (where the Frenchman currently is plying his trade), America most needs a striker, with De Jong remaining the team's top target.
If both players find their way to the Estadio Azteca, it will not only heighten America's chances at a run for their 13th league title, but also increment the league's international standing, as well as continue to provide a challenge to MLS as a viable destination on the other side of the Atlantic.
Even if the team fails in its quest to win the title with both Menez and De Jong on the roster, the willingness to sign players of their stature will spark a fire within their base -- and evoke memories of a time when the team dominated the market.
Eric Gomez is an editor for ESPN's One Nación. You can follow him on Twitter: @EricGomez86.