The proverbial Hot Stove League is heating up across Liga MX already (known as “Futbol de Estufa” down here) and lots of intriguing rumors have earned flashy headlines.
And we’re not even two weeks into the offseason!
Beyond the whispers, there are already plenty of transactions, transfers and sackings to catch up on.
We’ll start on the sidelines with two big managerial changes.
Rayados quickly fill unexpected coaching vacancy
Monterrey surprised Liga MX folks by sacking Víctor Manuel Vucetich after the club’s stunning loss in the semifinals.
The Rayados were the No. 1 seed but wavered down the stretch and were unable to rediscover the form that produced a 12-game unbeaten streak comprised of 11 wins and 1 draw.
Losing to hated crosstown rivals Tigres – the No. 7 seed – made matters worse and “King Midas” was told on May 28 that his services were no longer needed.
The very next day, GM José Antonio Noriega lassoed Fernando Ortiz who had stunned Liga MX observers by quitting the América job a week earlier.
“Tano” turned in his resignation immediately after the No. 2-seeded Aguilas were upset in the semifinals by Guadalajara, startling the América executives who were putting the final touches on his contract extension.
The highly respected Argentine was introduced as the new Rayados coach on Monday, warning fans that they “might have to learn how to suffer a little” because he plans on taking a more aggressive tactical approach.
Ortiz praised Vucetich for the work he did last season (guiding Monterrey to a 40-point season), but the reference to an attacking mentality was a bit of a swipe at his predecessor as “Vuce” is considered a pragmatic tactician.
The new Rayados boss was said to be targeting a few of his former players with playmaking midfielder Diego Valdés at the top of his list.
Ortiz denied this at the press conference, however, but the deep-pocketed Rayados should have no problem bringing in the talent that “Tano” desires.
One question being asked is whether or not Monterrey’s all-time leading scorer – Rogelio Funes Mori – will be back in a striped shirt next season. The El Tri striker has scored 139 goals for the Rayados, 112 coming in regular-season Liga MX games.
One Liga MX return completed, another desired
América has welcomed back 22-year-old midfielder Santiago Naveda after he spent a year on loan to Polish club Miedz Legnica.
Naveda looked to be a real up-and-comer after making a big splash with the Liga MX giants under Santiago Solari. But after Solari was fired, Naveda saw his minutes plummet and he asked for a transfer, a decision that backfired.
The Mexico City native didn’t see much game time with Miedz and the club ended the 2022-23 season getting demoted.
It remains to be seen if Naveda remains with the Aguilas or is farmed out again.
Former Pachuca star Erick Gutiérrez is being recruited by Guadalajara captain Víctor Guzmán. The two won the Clausura 2016 title together before Guti left Liga MX for PSV Eindhoven.
The 27-year-old midfielder never managed to earn a starting job with the Dutch giants and his minutes shrank even more this past season.
Guti has asked PSV for a transfer and Guzmán is planting the seeds for his return to Liga MX. For this, we will have to take a wait-and-see approach.
Elsewhere around Liga MX
América didn’t waste any time after crashing out of the playoffs to address perceived roster shortcomings.
Pachuca also traded away its other starting fullback, sending Mauricio Isaias to Toluca where the 22-year-old will slot right into the starting line-up. Grupo Pachuca then turned around and transferred Byron Castillo from León to the Tuzos where he will inherit Kevin’s position.
Since Mexico City rivals América and Cruz Azul have been active, the Pumas were obliged to act as well after missing out on the playoffs.
UNAM signed 25-year-old defender Roberto Ergas in an effort to shore up the club’s leaky defense. Ergas comes to Liga MX from Uruguay’s Defensor Sporting though he was on loan to Paraguayan club Olimpia last season. Earlier, “los felinos” brought back veteran goalie Gil Alcalá.