We were all so excited when we heard that Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio and Pavel Pardo were off to Europe after Germany06. It would only be a matter of time before Andres Guardado was off as well. This will improve Mexican footie, we all thought. It's about time the Europeans mined Mexico's league for talent, was the consensus. It'll make us great for SA2010, and get us to that elusive 5th match.
Two years after Maxi Rodriguez took the wind out of Mexico's sails, Mexico fielded a national team that had more players from Europe than from the local league. It was a big step for Mexico. They had fared decently in world cups using teams that were almost exclusively filled with local players. The thinking was that once Mexico gets those "world class" players, they could be a real threat.
The next step was a no-brainer. Mexican teams can create a new revenue stream by developing talent, and then selling it off to the big boys across the pond. Hugo Sanchez wanted to industrialize Mexican soccer-- turn in it into an exporting league, not one that imports talent, as it has been for decades.
Unfortunately, cultivating talent is not a priority for the majority of Mexican clubs. Win at all costs in our short tournaments and sell as much ad space on our uniforms is the near-term business model approach that continues to be employed. Why would I waste time developing a young player when I can bring in a foreigner who can help me win now? And the league that imports talent continues to do so. Who benefits from this business model?
Well it certainly hasn't been Mexico. The excessively high expectations for the national team were met with a less than stellar performance on the pitch. Predictably, the fatalist Mexican press is now wondering whether or not Mexico will even make it to the world cup.
Amazingly, it has been Paraguay that benefited the most from playing in Mexico's league. The Guarani are leading the CONMEBOL qualifying by 6 points, and the Paraguayans who play in the Mexican League have been instrumental in their teams’ success. As many as 11 Paraguayans who are employed by Mexican clubs have made an appearance in qualifying. 7 of those saw action in their last road win at Colombia. America's Salvador Cabañas netted the winner in the 1-0 game.
Mexico has a Trojan appetite for victory, but they lack the Spartan will to sacrifice for it. Near-term success almost always trumps long-term planning. Mexico has historically lacked goal-scorers, yet instead of trying to mine a jewel from the local leagues, team officials invariably bring in hired guns from South America. In the last tournament, only 5 Mexicans were on the list of the top 30 goal scorers. 4 were from Paraguay.
I have no issue with foreigners playing in Mexico. It makes the league, more competitive, entertaining, and exciting to watch. It is a strong league. I do, however, take issue with teams that would rather sign a warm bag of water from South America than take a chance on a young local player. And then they wonder why Mexico struggles at the international level.
With Cuauhtémoc Blanco's emigration to the MLS, Mexico is in dire need of a national to emerge as the face of the league. There are very few candidates, and two of the best would rather not assume the responsibility as they have bigger fish to fry in North London. But the Paraguayans have been willing and able. And so far it is paying big dividends.