Mexico’s World Cup campaign may have ended in disappointment, but two young players showed enough skill to earn transfers to Europe. Pablo Barrera and Efrain Juarez, both from the Pumas school, are embarking to start a new chapter in their lives, with West Ham United and Celtic respectively.
The two are part of that “Golden Generation” that won the U17 in 2005. They join Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, and Hector Moreno (another Pumas product) over in Europe. Another member of the age group (but did not play on the U17 team in Peru), Javier Hernandez will be joining Manchester United at the end of the month. Andres Guardado, who is also 23, has been at Depor for three years. And Jonathan Dos Santos is with Barcelona.
Barrera did very well coming off the bench for Mexico in South Africa. He can play on either wing, although he is most comfortable on the right. He is fearless, has good speed, manages both feet well, and has vastly improved his on the ball skill over the past few years. He led Pumas in scoring last season with 6 goals, even after truncating his season for Tri duty.
Juarez caught the eye of the Celtic brass during Mexico’s friendly at Wembley and his World Cup was serviceable, but not spectacular. His biggest strength is his lung capacity. No one runs harder for the full 90 than he does. He has the skillset, and in the right situation, Juarez can develop into the world class holding midfielder. It looks like Celtic will be able to get him going in that regard. And they have Champions League games to boot.
As a Pumas fan, I am very happy for both of them, but wonder if Pumas has adequate replacements ready to jump into the starting XI. Pumas fans have been teased mercilessly by the considerable skill of one Fernando Morales, but he has been cursed with one season ending injury after another. He is no longer a promising youngster, though. David Cabrera, though, is a very promising youngster, and hopefully will work hard enough to win a spot on the senior side.
In 2006, a number of Mexican players were able to make the move abroad after the World Cup. Most of those players, though, had already established themselves and were making mid career moves. These guys, however, are all young, and will likely form the base of the national team for the next two World Cups.