Monterrey clubs eager to chase Liga MX silverware

The Clásico Regiomontano is always a highlight of the Liga MX season. (Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
The Clásico Regiomontano is always a highlight of the Liga MX season. (Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /
Liga MX Regiomontanos
Rogelio Funes Mori fights through Tigres defenders Carlos Salcedo (left) and Diego Reyes (right) during their Guardianes 2021 match in April. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

Up north, city rivals Monterrey and the Tigres have sat at or near the top of Liga MX payroll accounts for the better part of the past decade.

For the just-completed Guardianes 2021 season, the “Regiomontanos” boasted the most expensive roster (Rayados) and the sixth most expensive (Tigres).

All that cash didn’t earn any league silverware, however (the Tigres did claim silver medals at the FIFA Club World Cup in February), so “los norteños” are wasting no time preparing for the new season.

For the Tigres, that means bringing in a new coach, deciding that after 11 years and five Liga MX titles, the “Tuca” Ferretti era had run its course.

Rayados wooing ‘seleccionados’

Monterrey actually kicked off the transfer season by trimming its budget, releasing, selling or loaning out six players, including three defensive starters.

Gone are goalie Hugo González (sold to FC Juárez) and defenders Nico Sánchez (Querétaro) and Miguel Layún (América). Stepping into the fray is El Tri stalwart Héctor Moreno who has been enticed to return to Liga MX. The 33-year-old defender will reunite with Javier Aguirre for whom he played in the 2010 World Cup and, since he was a free agent, Monterrey did not have to fork over buy-out money.

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The Culiacán native left the Pumas for Europe only five months after helping Mexico’s Under-17 squad win the 2007 World Cup. Since then, Moreno played in Holland (winning Eredivisie titles with AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven), Spain and Italy before spending the past two years in Qatar. The decision to move back to Mexico is likely linked to his desire to take part in one more World Cup (it would be his fourth), figuring that playing in Liga MX would make him more visible to coach Gerardo Martino.

Moreno could be paired in central defense César Montes, Sebastián Vegas or Adrián Mora. John Stefan Medina is capable of playing in the middle or out wide, so “El Vasco” Aguirre should feel he has his defense options covered.

There are also whispers that playmaker Rodolfo Pizarro is being recruited. Pizarro left the Rayados for MLS club Inter Miami, but he is being told that if he hopes to secure a spot on the national team ahead of the 2022 World Cup, he should return to Liga MX.

It would appear that Boca Juniors goalie Esteban Andrada is set to replace González who fell out of favor with the vociferous Monterrey fan base. At 30 years of age, Andrada is the same age as González and he helped Boca to the Argentine SuperLiga title in 2020.

Despite selling off forward Ake Loba (Nashville SC) and loaning Avilés Hurtado to Pachuca, the Rayados should be loaded up front with Rogelio Funes Mori, Vincent Janssen, Arturo González, Maxi Meza and Dorlan Pabón. “Los Albiazules” loaned out midfielder Jonathan González (Necaxa), but are well set there as well with Carlos Rodríguez, Matías Kranevitter and Celso Ortiz.

Liga MX now has a French Connection

Across town, the Tigres made a big splash last month when they announced the acquisition of midfielder Florian Thauvin, a member of France’s 2018 World Cup-winning team. Thauvin was introduced to the enthusiastic fan base over the weekend.

Liga MX regiomontanos
Frenchman Florian Thauvin poses with his new jersey. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

The arrival of Thauvin puts the Tigres over the foreign-player limit established by Liga MX, however. As a result, winger Julián Quiñones is on the trading block and appears to be on the verge of joining Atlas. Another foreigner seemingly out the door is Leo Fernández, who is negotiating a return to Toluca.

Neither of the two departures are significant if you only look at production during the Guardianes 2021 season. Quiñones was coming back from a knee injury and was used mostly off the bench, while Fernández was unable to satisfy the tactical requirements demanded by “Tuca” Ferretti who is notorious for his reluctance to use young players. Fernández thrived while on loan to Toluca during the Clausura 2020, so Tigres fans had hoped to see some excitement from the 22-year-old, but it was not to be.

New coach Miguel Herrera wants to rejuvenate his back line, especially as steady veteran Hugo Ayala is now 34 and frequently struggles with fitness issues. Linemates Diego Reyes and Carlos Salcedo were too inconsistent (lapses in concentration, poor clearance play) to satisfy the demanding “Tuca” and may have lost some confidence.

Reyes won a Liga MX title with Herrera at América (Clausura 2013), so “El Piojo” might be willing to be patient with him. Still, there were rumors that the Tigres were inquiring about another Herrera protégé at América, fullback Jorge Sanchez, and others linked Atlas and El Tri Olímpico defender Jesús Angulo with “Los Felinos.”

The necessity of adding to the defense has been mitigated somewhat by Francisco Meza. The 29-year-old Colombian told Tigres officials back in early April that he wanted out, expressing frustration at the way he was being handled by “Tuca.” With the coaching change, however, Meza could settle into a starting role, if early impressions are an indicator.

El Tri fails to impress on two continents. dark. Next

In attack, the Tigres will rely on Frenchman André-Pierre Gignac (who helped convince Thauvin to move to Liga MX), Carlos González and Luis Quiñones, but “El Piojo” might consider looking for younger alternatives to Javier Aguirre and Jesús Dueñas.