Liga MX Hot Stove League warms up ahead of schedule

Sebastián Córdova (left) appears set to trade in his América jersey for a Chivas shirt. Uriel Antuna (right) would go in the oppposite direction. (Photo by Alfredo Moya/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Sebastián Córdova (left) appears set to trade in his América jersey for a Chivas shirt. Uriel Antuna (right) would go in the oppposite direction. (Photo by Alfredo Moya/Jam Media/Getty Images) /
Liga MX Transfer tidbits
Santos Laguna playmaker Diego Valdés is listening to offers from other Liga MX teams ahead of the winter transfer window. (Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images) /

Liga MX transfer rumors running hot and heavy

We’re still more than a month away from the opening of the Winter Transfer Window in Liga MX (Jan. 5-Feb. 1), but the grapevine telegraph is working overtime.

The two big stories swirling around the Liga MX hot stove involve a blockbuster Chivas-América trade and Santos Laguna playmaker Diego Valdés.

Guadalajara and the Aguilas are on the verge of swapping bronze medal-winning teammates Uriel Antuna and Sebastián Córdova. Antuna joined the Chivas with much fanfare in January 2020 but has struggled to impress. In 64 appearances with “El Rebaño Sagrado,” the former LA Galaxy star has 6 goals and 9 assists but had neither a goal nor an assist in the just-completed Apertura 2021.

Córdova was supposed to be the next great home-grown América star – the club even awarded him the coveted No. 10 jersey before this season – but he has floundered under the direction of Santiago Solari such that he was no longer a regular (he saw just 42 minutes of action against the Pumas in the quarterfinals). Córdova contributed only 3 goals this season, and appeared disinterested and low on energy at times.

Pundits suggest the trade could be great for both teams and both players. Córdova played for Marcel Michel Leaño at Necaxa back in 2018 and the Chivas coach is looking for a playmaking midfielder. Furthermore, Córdova and Guadalajara forward Alexis Vega formed a dangerous tandem with El Tri Olímpico.

Solari prefers to attack down the wings and he thinks he found his left winger in Salvador Reyes (acquired from Puebla over the summer) but has been unable to find a right winger that satisfies him. Antuna could fit perfectly in Solari’s offense with Henry Martín (another Tokyo teammate) as the point man.

Negotiations appear to be well under way, but one wonders if Guadalajara fans will react angrily to a trade with their hated rivals, América? Historically, Chivas Nation has made it difficult for former Aguilas to find acceptance in Estadio Akron. Córdova might have to face some booing and razzing at home games if he doesn’t deliver right away.

Both Liga MX giants are desperate to turn the page quickly on failed seasons, and the Antuna-for-Córdova deal could be a difference-maker.

Where will Diego Valdés land?

Midfielder Diego Valdés helped lead Santos to the Liga MX Finals last season and sparked the Guerreros to a No. 5 seed with a team-high 5 goals and 3 assists. Initial reports had the Chilean being recruited heavily by Cruz Azul with the Rayados of Monterrey also putting out feelers. Then América – with the potential subtraction of Córdova – reportedly entered the race, dangling oodles of cash in front of the 27-year-old.

In addition to being strapped for cash, the Cementeros’ chances of acquiring Valdés are hampered by their previous attempt to sign him. The two sides were close to a deal 18 months ago when Cruz Azul suddenly opted for Walter Montoya (who has been rather unproductive with “La Máquina,” providing just 1 goal and 2 assists in 43 appearances).

At the same time that word leaked that the Antuna-Córdova transaction was moving forward, ESPN reported that América agreed to the $10 million-dollar buy-out clause that Santos was asking. The only thing standing in the way of Valdés becoming an Aguila was final agreement on wages.

The path from La Laguna to Mexico City is getting to be a familiar one. América previously mined Santos for strikers Christián Benítez and Oribe Peralta and goalie Agustín Marchesín. Incidentally, each of those three won at least one Liga MX title with both the Guerreros and the Aguilas.

Around Liga MX …

It appears that Rodolfo Pizarro is on his way back to Monterrey, set to rejoin the Rayados following a two-year stint with Inter Miami. Pizarro helped Monterrey win the Apertura 2019 Liga MX title over América before splitting for MLS.

Peru international Raúl Ruidiaz is out of contract with Seattle Sounders and is said to be considering a return to Liga MX. … Said to be interested are Cruz Azul (coach Juan Reynoso is Peruvian) and América (the Aguilas seem to be linked with every big name available). The 31-year-old striker starred for Monarcas Morelia from 2016-2018, twice leading the Liga MX in scoring. Ruidiaz also won three Liga MX Balón de Oro awards.

Next. Tigres dominate but barely defeat León. dark

Mexico international and La Masía product Jonathan dos Santos is out of contract and will not rejoin the LA Galaxy. América was thought to be the next landing spot for the former Barcelona man (his late father, Zizinho, played for the Aguilas across four seasons in the 1980s-90s and his older brother Gio wore the “AzulCrema” jersey for three seasons), but the Tigres have also placed their name in the hat.