Rumblings of rift between Javier Hernandez, Mexico won't stop as absence continues
Mexico announced on Thursday its squad for two upcoming friendlies against Argentina on Nov. 16 and Nov. 20 in Cordoba and Mendoza. Here are five talking points stemming from the squad:
Chicharito issue won't go away
There are rational reasons why Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Mexico's top goalscorer, hasn't been involved for El Tri since Russia 2018. For the September friendlies, a rest was required after the long World Cup camp; in October, Hernandez was bed-stricken with a virus and for the November dates he's only just getting back into form. A long trip to Argentina is the last thing the 30-year-old needs as he attempts to win back a starting spot with West Ham.
And then, as interim coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti has stressed on multiple occasions, everyone knows what Hernandez brings at this point and it's time to see some fresh faces.
But that won't stop the mumblings about Hernandez's relationship with the Mexican federation (FMF) being fractured, with reports about Hernandez and other senior squad members not being happy with the treatment of players, especially over the issue of image rights.
The return of Miguel Layun -- Hernandez's close friend -- does partially dispel the theory that there is either a boycott by certain players or that the FMF is excluding, although Hector Herrera, Hector Moreno and Andres Guardado have all yet to appear post-Russia.
Hernandez's comments about having considered retiring from international duty on multiple occasions didn't dampen the conspiracy theories. Like many things surrounding the Mexican national team, it's a topic that isn't clear and is likely to rumble on.
Ferretti sending message to next manager
What's emerged from Ferretti's three call-ups since Russia is a clear and consistent idea of how he sees the Mexican national team moving forward.
Raul Jimenez, Edson Alvarez, Angel Zaldivar, Hirving Lozano, Roberto Alvarado, Victor Guzman, Erick Aguirre, Jesus Gallardo, Gerardo Arteaga, Jesus Angulo and Hugo Gonzalez have been included in all three of Ferretti's squads. Add into that equation Erick Gutierrez, Gibran Lajud, Orbelin Pineda and a sprinkling of Europe-based players and you get a strong idea of what Ferretti thinks Mexico's 2022 World Cup squad will look like.
But it isn't all youth. One particularly interesting area is in goal, where Ferretti has brought back 37-year-old Jesus Corona, after seeing Tijuana's Gibran Lajud and Chivas' Raul Gudino in October.
Argentina's squad may not include Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, but it is full of forwards playing at top Europe clubs and the inclusion of the experienced Corona hints that Ferretti doesn't fully trust the young goalkeepers as yet. Still, if games in Argentina are supposedly crucial in younger players getting international experience, it seems counter-intuitive to have left the younger keepers out.
Toluca star Vega absent but future bright
There has rightly been some questions about Alexis Vega not appearing on this most recent list. The Toluca striker has been the most impressive young Mexican striker in Liga MX this season by a distance, although admittedly there isn't much competition for that prize.
Vega, who has netted five times in Liga MX this season, feels like he should be part of the young generation charged with pressuring the established names, but has yet to be called up by Ferretti, even when the likes of Jonathan Gonzalez, Roberto Alvarado, Gerardo Arteaga, Diego Lainez - with the Under-20s at present - and Jesus Angulo have all been given chances.
The inclusion of Chivas duo Alan Pulido and Angel Zaldivar as well as Club America's Henry Martin again highlights the lack of depth Mexico has upfront behind Hernandez and Raul Jimenez, making 20-year-old Vega's absence all the more perplexing.
Vega's time, however, will surely come.
What happened to Pizarro?
It wasn't very long ago that Rodolfo Pizarro's omission from Mexico's World Cup squad caused outrage. Five months on and the 24-year-old Monterrey playmaker's name has again not been included. Even more noticeably, there hasn't been any major reaction in the press.
The bottom line is that Pizarro has struggled to show real form at new club Rayados. There have been injury problems and problems in adapting to a different playing style after his summer move from Chivas.
But still, when Ferretti is picking players that aren't regular starters in their club sides, such as Gerardo Arteaga and Henry Martin, it does bring up questions as to why Pizarro hasn't been included as part of the new generation of Mexican talent.
Friendlies can't mask drama at FMF
This is a tough time for Mexico's football federation.
The games in Argentina have been slightly overshadowed by Mexico's federal economic competition commission opening an investigation into transfer practices in Liga MX. That came on top of an ongoing probe by Mexico's tax authorities over the use of "double contracts." The repercussions could potentially be huge.
Aside from all that, the search for a new manager is also ongoing, with Gerardo "Tata" Martino still the favorite and Quique Sanchez Flores also linked.
Finally, there have been reports that the FMF's national teams' director Dennis te Kloese - a key operator within the federation - is in talks with LA Galaxy about becoming the head of soccer operations at the MLS club.