Duvier Riascos may be Colombian, but his development and the international demand for his services say a lot about the growth of Mexican soccer at the club level.
The forward came to Tijuana in 2012 after failing to break his way into Club America. Previously, America de Cali had loaned him out to other Colombian clubs for several unsuccessful spells.
Riascos finally found his form on yet another loan, this time in China, then came to Club America with high expectations. He never saw the field, but after a decent stint at Puebla, Tijuana gave him just the chance he needed to explode. Now he’s sought after by the likes of Stuttgart, reportedly set to make a multi-million euro bid.
Whether a deal will come to pass or not is yet to be seen - Stuttgart may balk at the Xolos’ asking price since Riascos is under contract through 2016. But Tijuana is already rumored to be in the market for a replacement up top, and the cash they stand to reap from Riascos’ sale could go a long way towards providing replacements and bolstering the club’s promising youth development ranks.
What Tijuana does on this matter will be telling as to how far Liga MX has come in terms of embracing its growing role in global club soccer.
Riascos isn’t the only player who has turned into a valuable investment for Tijuana. In short, Xolos are doing a lot right in terms of getting the right value for players, whether it’s from their own youth ranks or from other clubs.
But they’re not the only ones. Though until recently Mexico provided only an odd detour on the global club soccer map, a number of Mexican teams - Pachuca, Tigres, Monterrey - are now beginning to fit squarely into the global landscape of club soccer.
This is good news for Mexican soccer, because turning from a once inward-looking backwater to a node in the global game benefits everyone.
Good players from around the Americas have long looked to Mexico as a great place to play, for the high level of the game there as well as the excellent salaries on offer. But certain elements of the Mexican way of doing business - the “pacto de caballeros,” the reticence to let players try their luck abroad and then return - have meant that the only way out of Mexico is often back to the country of origin.
That’s not in anyone’s best interest. Clubs can obviously benefit mightily from the cash flows generated when a player gets a chance and breaks out onto the global scene, ala Riascos. As well as he has done in a Xolos shirt over the past 12 months, it would make sense for Tijuana to cash in now on the 26-year-old and move on.
Of course, if Riascos joining the other players to use Mexico as a stepping stone to the highest levels of club soccer - Jackson Martinez comes to mind as well - begins to set a more permanent trend, many will cry that it signals Liga MX becoming a feeder league for Europe.
That’s not a fair assessment, since players move on from every league in the world if the price is right. Even the EPL, which many consider to be at the top of the global food chain, has lost players to Spain and elsewhere on occasion. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Instead, Liga MX and its clubs need to more widely embrace the unique position as an intermediary league in the Americas, where skilled South Americans - and indeed Central and North Americans as well - can get the attention of the biggest teams in the world.
Slowly, Mexico is gaining a reputation not just for great youth development, but for turning good Latin American players into great ones. By embracing that turn of events rather than fighting it, Liga MX will continue to become much more relevant on the global scale.
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