Hot Stove League, Liga MX-style: Part 1

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Liga MX Hot Stove League 1

Now with Atlas, Julio Furch, left, will again team up with his former captain at Santos, Javier Abella, right. (Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images)

Flurry of activity heats up winter transfer window

With a little more than four weeks between the Guardianes 2020 Final and Opening Day of the Clausura 2021, there’s not much time for swapping players and rejiggering rosters. Add on a 10-month, pandemic-related financial crisis and the market for Liga MX players shrinks even more.

Even so, as training camps open across the league, several big-name players are introducing themselves to new teammates.

The two splashiest transfers to date were the Carlos González-to-Tigres deal and the Julio Furch trade to Atlas.

González leaves the Pumas after helping them reach the Guardianes 2020 Final. He’ll now team up with the Flying Frenchman, André-Pierre Gignac. That could develop into a dangerous combo for opposing defenses who have to face the Concacaf Champions League title-holders.

“El Cocolizo” scored 34 goals in 92 games across five seasons with the Pumas, a production rate the runners-up will have difficulty replacing. With the move to Tigres, González will be joining his third Liga MX franchise (Necaxa 2017-2018; UNAM 2018-2020).

It will be fascinating to see how quickly he understands coach Ricardo Ferretti’s tactical schemes and, even moreso, how “Tuca” uses the 27-year-old forward – in tandem with Gignac, as a late-game sub, or grooming him to replace the 35-year-old Gignac.

Another big trade saw Santos ship striker Julio Furch to little sister Atlas. Furch scored 69 goals with the Guerreros since joining them from Veracruz back in January 2017. The 31-year-old Argentine starred on the Santos team that hoisted the Clausura 2018 trophy and has been the focal point of Guillermo Almada’s attack for the past three seasons.

The move to Atlas is not a terrible surprise as Grupo Orlegi is the owner/operator of both Santos and the Zorros. The arrangement has allowed Santos to offload surplus players to Atlas since the merger was authorized by Liga MX HQ in 2019. In just the past three seasons, Orlegi has sent Guerreros players José Abella, Hugo Nervo, Jesús Angulo, Javier Correa and Jesús Isijara to Atlas.

The transfer of Furch, however, might be more about trying to salvage the Zorros “relegation” issues and protect the Grupo Orlegi bottom line.

As there won’t be relegation after the Clausura 2021 season, Liga MX rules mandate that the three teams at the bottom of the demotion standings must pay hefty fines (last place – 120 million pesos; 17th place – 90 million pesos; 16th place – 60 million pesos).

The Zorros enter the coming season deep in last place. The addition of Furch is unlikely to be enough to boost them above 17th place, but even that small improvement would save 30 million pesos.

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