Two weeks into the Clausura 2024 season and two familiar faces sit atop the Liga MX standings – América and Monterrey.
The Aguilas and the Rayados are among five teams that have two wins from two games but the two powerhouses are on top with identical +4 goal differentials (each winning both their games by 2-0 scorelines).
América and Monterrey have finished 1-2 in the standings for three seasons running – though only América has advanced to the finals in that time span, doing so just once and winning it all last season – so it is no surprise to find them looking down at the other 16 Liga MX franchises.
The other three squads with 6 points include Tigres (looking to reach a third consecutive Liga MX finals series), Atlético de San Luis (a semifinalist last season) and Necaxa (a pretender whose real level is likely to be evident when they host América this weekend).
Transfer activity across the Liga MX
Despite their regular-season success, the Rayados have struggled come playoff time, so management is determined to find some fresh legs, especially on the back line.
Arteaga, 25, would likely make Jesús Gallardo expendable. Gallardo has been a fixture at left fullback with El Tri and this move could signal a changing of the guard with Team Mexico, but Gallardo will not just step aside.
Hot Stove League whispers suggest Gallardo will be snapped up by Guadalajara where the 29-year-old would have plenty of opportunity to stay in form and compete with Arteaga for the starting role in upcoming El Tri fixtures. However, the latest reports suggest Monterrey will not allow Gallardo to go without compensation and the asking price could be too rich for the Chivas.
As for América, they are struggling with a plethora of riches, a situation that could be complicated by the offers that are pouring in for their stars.
Winger Brian Rodríguez appears to be on his way to Fiorentina. The 23-year-old Uruguayan won the starting spot midway through last season with spectacular performances only to suffer a knee injury on Matchday 14.
So although the Aguilas went on to win the Liga MX title without him, Rodríguez was set to be a major contributor this season. Now, it seems he will be making his way to Italy.
Two other América stalwarts are also being targeted by European clubs. Midfield metronome Álvaro Fidalgo (he led Liga MX in passes completed last season) is reportedly being pursued by Real Betis while stud defender Sebastián Cáceres is attracting interest from several clubs, including reigning Serie A champion Napoli.
Fidalgo, 26 and a Real Madrid academy product, arrived to Liga MX two years ago and quickly became a key cog in the Aguilas’ engine room. Cáceres, 24, joined América three years ago and has been playing at All-Star caliber for two seasons now.
Other potential moves
UNAM added midfield playmaker Piero Quispe earlier in the transfer window, a move that indicated Gustavo del Prete's days at the CU were numbered.
Pumas management initially negotiated a deal with Necaxa but the Rayos balked at the wage demands of the 27-year-old Argentine. Mazatlán FC was the next trade partner and, although the wage demands are a concern, the Cañoneros are in desperate need of a playmaker to fill in for the oft-injured Nicolás Benedetti who might miss the entire season with a knee injury.
As such, UNAM might be inclined to agree to pony up some money to cover del Prete's salary because they have a handshake deal with José Marcos Costa "Marquinhos," currently playing with Hungary's Ferencvaros. The Pumas can't sign the 24-year-old "Marquinhos" until del Prete is sold.
Another factor in UNAM's late-window move for a forward is the latest injury update on newly acquired striker Rogelio Funes Mori. The Argentine goleador suffered broken ribs against Atlético de San Luis this past weekend and he could be sidelined for up to eight weeks.
Up north, Santos Laguna have reached agreement to sell up-and-coming left back Omar Campos to LAFC. The 21-year-old Mexico City native had gotten attention from América and Guadalajara but neither Liga MX club seemed willing to meet Santos' asking price. Now the promising Campos will be plying his trade north of the border.
Two other big moves are being held up by bookkeeping snafus. Cruz Azul is trying to repatriate Jorge Sánchez, while Toluca is putting the final touches on a contract to hire former Cementeros captain Juan Escobar.
Sánchez – a regular with Team Mexico – has struggled since moving to Ajax in August 2022. The Dutch giants sold him to FC Porto last August but the 26-year-old right back has done little but sit on the bench.
There is one huge stumbling block however: FIFA rules prohibit a player from playing for three clubs in the same footballing year. Sánchez was still on the Ajax roster when the 2023-24 season began but did not play in any games so Cruz Azul is appealing to FIFA to see if there is any flexibility in that rule.
Over in Toluca, Diablos Rojos management must release a foreign player from its roster to make room for Escobar and that is a bit of a dilemma. The obvious choice is Brazilian striker Pedro Raúl who underperformed, scoring just twice in 14 Liga MX matches. But ownership is reluctant to cut ties with the 27-year-old after spending 6 million dollars to bring him in just six months ago.
In the meantime, Escobar can't be registered with Liga MX though there seems little doubt that Toluca will make it happen. And then the Paraguayan hardman will look forward to Matchday 17 when the Diablos Rojos welcome Cruz Azul to "La Bombonera." Escobar would love nothing more than to show up the Cementeros after his unceremonious dismissal.