Liga MX Cat Talk: Catching up with Tigres and Pumas

Tigres coach Miguel Herrera will have to rely on youngsters from the club's academy system if the exodus continues. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Tigres coach Miguel Herrera will have to rely on youngsters from the club's academy system if the exodus continues. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /
Tigres Pumas
Jesús Dueñas (right) exults after scoring the winner for the Tigres with just 2 minutes remaining in overtime of the Apertura 2016 Final against América. Dueñas left this past week for FC Juárez after 11 years with the Tigres. (Photo by JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images) /

We mentioned a few days ago that perennial title contenders Tigres appeared to be standing pat.

While it is true that no new faces have entered the locker room (defender Eduardo Tercero is back after three seasons on loan to Tijuana but nobody else is coming in the door), there has been a surprising exodus from San Nicolás de la Garza.

Jack-of-all-trades Jesús Dueñas (known fondly as Super Dueñas by the Tigres faithful) is the latest to walk out the door, following on the heels of back-up striker Carlos González.

In addition, defender Diego Reyes reportedly is cautiously packing his bags, winger Yeferson Soteldo is being pursued by Brazilian giant Sao Paulo, midfielder Sebastián Córdova is set for a loan deal away and top assist man Luis Quiñones is pouting his way off the roster.

Breaking up a Liga MX giant?

With fullback Luis “Chaka” Rodríguez out for up to six months after surgery on his right ankle, coach Miguel Herrera was set to install Dueñas at right back. The versatile veteran seemed ready to settle into a position instead of being rotated from fullback to midfielder to winger … wherever he was needed.

Instead, the 33-year-old handyman negotiated a move away from his home of 11 years for a chance help FC Juárez escape the cellar and begin an ambitious rebuilding project. Dueñas was convinced to accept this new challenge by Bravos team president Miguel Angel Garza, who held the same position with the Tigres until June 2020.

Dueñas will forever be remembered for scoring the title-clinching goal for the Tigres against América in the Apertura 2016 Final. He leaves the club with five Liga MX titles on his resumé.

González departs after just three seasons, never finding the comfort zone that would have allowed him to be a top scorer. Mostly used as a late-game sub, González scored just 11 goals and added 6 assists in 58 games.

Some thought he might be kept around as the heir apparent to striker André-Pierre Gignac but the Frenchman shows no signs of slowing down, winning his third Liga MX Golden Boot Award after last season. So Gonzo heads to Toluca where he will be given the chance of being the target man for the new-look Diablos Rojos.

Other Tigres who might depart

As for the other four who might be on the outs, Reyes is apparently a target for Spain’s Getafe. Reyes, 29, was in Europe from 2015-2019 and played for three La Liga clubs – Real Sociedad, Espanyol and Leganés – and he is eager to cross the pond again.

Soteldo, a shifty winger who only joined the Tigres in January, might be on the move again. The 24-year-old Venezuelan playmaker has played at home in Venezuela, in Chile, Brazil (Santos) and MLS since turning pro in 2013. A reported lack of discipline has the Tigres willing to listen to offers and Brazil’s Sao Paulo is knocking on the door.

Since returning from the Olympics where he starred on Mexico’s bronze medal-winning team, Córdova has struggled to stay fit. The left-footed whiz saw only 446 minutes of action (not even five full games worth) last season, but the club still believes in the 25-year-old Aguascalientes native. As such, the front office is mulling a loan deal to Necaxa – his home-town team – in hopes that he can rediscover his form.

And finally, the enigmatic Luis Quiñones has riled up ownership by publicly demanding a contract renegotiation less than a year after his deal was nenewed. The Colombian speedster was left off the Tigres’ travel squad (the team went to the United States for a preseason game this past week) and there are rumors that he might soon be persona non grata. He has been suspended for the remainder of the preseason and his status for the Apertura 2022 is uncertain.

Pumas on the prowl

Everyone agrees. A modest UNAM club played well above its head last season, reaching the Concacaf Champions League final and qualifying for the Liga MX playoffs with a win in the season finale.

As coach Andrés Lillini had few quality options off the bench, the players were exhausted at the close, losing 5-2 on aggregate to Seattle Sounders in the CCL final and getting routed 4-1 by the Chivas in their wildcard match.

With a limited budget, the Pumas had little wiggle room to improve the roster this summer, but they’ve managed so far. Selling off some surplus talent, cutting out some big wages and purchasing wisely, UNAM is ready for another entertaining season.

Of course, one subtraction is a tough one to accept. Veteran goalie Alfredo Talavera turned down UNAM’s contract offer (he wanted two years, the club offered one) and “Tala” left as a free agent.

Others headed off campus are wingers Washington Corozo (released), Sebastian Saucedo (released), leading scorer Rogerio (released) and playmaker Favio Álvarez (loaned to Argentina’s Club Atlético Talleres).

The financial windfall came in the sale of in-demand right back Alan Mozo to Chivas. The revenues from that transaction helped finance a few acquisitions.

Midfielder César Huerto joined “los felinos” from Guadalajara and veteran defender Adrián Aldrete was acquired from Cruz Azul. And coming in to challenge Julio González for the No. 1 jersey is goalie Gil Alcalá who was brought in on loan from Tijuana.

Finally, UNAM bought the contract of 26-year-old Argentine forward Gustavo del Prete with the idea of teaming him up with countryman Juan Ignacio Dinenno to form a dynamic duo in attack. Del Prete is signed through 2025 and his hefty price tag (about $4.5 million dollar buy-out) will leave the Pumas strapped for cash again.

Next. Toluca: From pretender to contender?. dark

Even so, there are reports that UNAM is looking at Boca Juniors star Eduardo Salvio as a potential replacement for the departed Álvarez. If they pursue this transaction, the Pumas will have to do some clever bookkeeping to keep their heads above water.