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 By Tom Marshall

Mexico stars in need of a January move with 2018 World Cup fast approaching

Layun's form at Porto has tapered off but so far, at least, the club hasn't let him move on.
Layun's form at Porto has tapered off but so far, at least, the club hasn't let him move on.

The January transfer window is an important one for Mexico internationals currently playing in Europe. The World Cup is just around the corner and more El Tri players than coach Juan Carlos Osorio would like are struggling for regular minutes in different European leagues.

Mexico's depth of talent isn't strong enough to be able to discard players that have been the core of El Tri's successful qualifying campaign, meaning January's moves could spell the difference between some of Osorio's important players heading into Russia 2018 with minutes and confidence under their belt or needing the pre-tournament friendlies just to find rhythm and form.

Here are four Mexico players in need of a move this January.

Miguel Layun, DF, Porto

This one is a no-brainer if Porto is willing to let Layun go. The 29-year-old former Club America full-back told ESPN FC last month that Sevilla, Lyon and Monterrey had made offers during the summer but Porto had turned them down.

Once again, there will surely be interest from both within Europe and Liga MX -- Cruz Azul and Club America were both linked over the weekend -- but it all depends on Porto, who probably see the versatile Layun as natural back-up should Alex Telles or Ricardo Pereira get injured.

With Porto in a tight race for the Portugal league title and facing Liverpool in February in the Champions League Round of 16, there's a lot at stake in the coming months. But Layun needs to do everything in his power to force through a move. The player, who recently became a father for the second time, has played just 15 percent of Porto's total minutes in the league this season and has missed out on the squad entirely in six of their 14 games.

Worryingly for Mexico, there is very little competition for Layun's place in the national team regardless of whether the former Watford player is featuring or not for Porto.

Diego Reyes, DF/MF, Porto

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for Reyes at Porto? "El Flaco" has started the last two games following Felipe's red card in Champions League against Monaco and coach Sergio Conceicao has suggested that Reyes may be given more chances. It's also worth remembering that with Felipe out for that Liverpool game, it may be in the manager's interests to give Reyes a run.

That all makes the next few weeks vital for Reyes, 25, who has already reportedly rejected a big money move to Russia. If Reyes starts and impresses in those first couple of games of the New Year, the panorama changes significantly. And Conceicao certainly isn't afraid of making big decisions, as seen by Jose Sa starting in goal at present ahead of Iker Casillas.

But the coach will also know that the Ivan Marcano and Felipe partnership in central defense has been particularly strong this season. Then in central midfield, where Reyes has been preferred of late by Osorio, Danilo Pereira is one of the Portuguese first division's best players.

In an ideal world, a move back to Spain -- where he excelled with Espanyol last season -- would be the perfect scenario.

Raul Jimenez, FW, Benfica

Jimenez hasn't flourished in Portugal and is unable to crack the first team. He needs minutes in 2018.
Jimenez hasn't flourished in Portugal and is unable to crack the first team. He needs minutes in 2018.

Whichever way you spin it, Jimenez is struggling at Benfica. The former Club America striker has netted only five goals in all of 2017 for the club and is yet to get off the mark in the Portuguese first division this season.

The 26-year-old's competition for the start is 33-year-old crowd favorite Jonas, who has 18 goals in 15 league matches in the 2017-18 campaign so far to lead the league. Then there is Switzerland international Haris Seferovic who is also competing for the place.

In short, the situation is difficult for Jimenez. He's started just 19 league games since leaving America for Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2014. Jimenez may have just completed 100 games with Benfica but he should be cutting his losses with the World Cup approaching; even a temporary move back to Liga MX would be better than being consistently sidelined.

Hector Moreno, DF, AS Roma

Moreno's move to Roma last summer appeared the perfect step up from PSV Eindhoven. Instead, it's now become a subject of real concern for the leader of El Tri's defense. Moreno, 29, has started only two Serie A games this season and hasn't played a single minute since October.

The problem for Moreno is the combination of the sheer number and quality of center-back options that coach Eusebio Di Francesco has, along with the fact that Roma has the best defensive record in Serie A so far this season. With Juan Jesus, Federico Fazio, Konstantinos Manolas and Leandro Castan all battling with Moreno for the center-back positions, things don't look particularly positive for Moreno heading into 2018.

A loan move away to get minutes would be the ideal solution.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.

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