Cruz Azul makeover continues apace; Chivas reboot under way

Cementeros get new striker while Guadalajara hits the transfer market
Cruz Azul fans had little to cheer about in the Apertura 2023 season as the Cementeros slumped to a 16th-place finish.
Cruz Azul fans had little to cheer about in the Apertura 2023 season as the Cementeros slumped to a 16th-place finish. / Jam Media/GettyImages

Cementeros Nation got a look at their new coach and general manager this week as Iván Alonso and Martín Anselmi were introduced to the Mexican soccer media.

The news was not a surprise. 

Alonso had been on the job for several weeks now and Anselmi’s hiring was public knowledge, the presentation delayed because the 38-year-old Argentine had led his team – Ecuador’s Independiente del Valle – to the league finals.

During the media session, team president Víctor Velázquez declared his goal was a return to the glory days when Cruz Azul dominated Liga MX in the 1970s. Well … that won’t happen any time soon, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

New management wastes no time in overhauling Cruz Azul roster

Shortly after the press conference, Cruz Azul announced that they had made a deal for UNAM striker Gabriel Fernández. 

The burly 29-year-old Uruguayan won the Pumas starting job and helped “los felinos” to a fourth-place finish with his physical presence in the box (7 goals and 1 assist). Though he will no doubt improve the Cementeros attack, the club played a pretty penny - 11 million dollars, according to some reports.

No doubt, Anselmi and Alonso will be hoping that "El Toro" and Ángel Sepúlveda will form a dynamic duo at the point of attack. Sepúlveda came over to La Noria in midseason and finished third in the scoring race (9 goals).

Earlier this month, the Cementeros sent underachieving goalie Sebastián Jurado to FC Juárez on a one-year loan deal. This is a clear indication that the new front office will be recruiting a new netminder.

Here in Liga MX, Camilo Vargas (Atlas) and Tiago Volpi (Toluca) are seen as targets, but it is more likely that Andrés Gudiño and prospect Luis Jiménez (acquired from Necaxa) will face competition from a South American keeper.

Also en route to FC Juárez is controversial defender Carlos Salcedo (the former El Tri back-liner spent just one season with “La Máquina Azul") while veteran midfielder Jesús Dueñas was also told his services were no longer needed.

To remake the back line, Cruz Azul has already brought in 29-year-old Argentine Gonzalo Piovi from Racing Club and are on the verge of signing Uruguayan 28-year-old Uruguayan Camilo Cándido.

The team is hoping to fund the (much-needed) roster renovation by selling Colombian midfielder Kevin Castaño, a bust in his lone season with the Cementeros. Castaño has been linked to Russia’s Krasnodar.

Chivas starting over with Gago

Former Boca Juniors midfielder Fernando Gago is now officially in charge at Guadalajara … and he means business.

One of the most notable things the Argentine manager said to reporters on Wednesday is that he will not tolerate out-of-shape players. That might be great news for Chivas fans, but perhaps not so much for star players like Alexis Vega.

Despite a solid regular season and a fifth-place finish, Guadalajara suffered considerable locker room turmoil. Coach Veljko Paunovic tried to resign in midseason as rumors of a punch-out with captain Víctor Guzmán reportedly resulted in threats from a drug cartel after “El Pocho” was benched.

Paunovic stayed on but turned in his resignation shortly after the Chivas were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Vega was also a source of contention. The star winger was suspended for five games after violating team rules (for the umpteenth time, I might add) and was on the trade block as soon as the season ended.

With a new coach in charge, some pundits wonder if Vega will be brought back with a clean slate, but a short leash (hopefully a very short leash).

The Chivas have identified Puebla striker Guillermo Martínez as the solution to their scoring woes. Martínez was the No. 2 goleador during the Apertura 2023, finishing with 10 goals.

Puebla turned down Guadalajara's initial offer so Hierro & Co submitted a second bid. However, now comes word that UNAM has entered the contest to acquire Martínez and, flush with cash from the Fernández-to-Cruz-Azul deal, they might be able to outbid the Chivas.

Next. América dethrones Tigres, claim 14th league title. América takes crown from Tigres' head. dark

"El Rebaño Sagrado" has identified several positions they want to address during the abbreviated winter break – goalie, wingers and left fullback – and we expect they'll be active, so we'll keep an eye on their activities.