UNAM surprised pundits with a fourth-place finish in the Apertura 2023, advancing to the Liga MX semifinals before losing to the defending champion Tigres, but Pumas management is not resting on its laurels.
First off, the club had to find a new coach after Antonio Mohamed retired unexpectedly. The Pumas wasted no time, handing Gustavo Lema – Mohamed’s top assistant the reins.
“Los felinos” then made a big splash early on in the transfer window – acquiring Guillermo Martínez, the second-leading scorer last season, from Puebla – while also making it clear that there would be additional changes.
With Martínez in camp, veteran striker Juan Ignacio Dinenno – the 10th leading scorer in Pumas history – became expendable while forward Gabriel “El Toro” Fernández was sold to Cruz Azul. Also sent packing was academy prospect Emanuel Montejano who failed to make an impact after scoring on his debut back in 2021.
Pumas fans eager to see new midfield wizard in action
Wingers César Huerta and Eduardo Salvio served as playmakers in the UNAM attack, but they get little help from midfield.
That should not be an issue in the Clausura 2024.
The Pumas inked Peruvian wunderkind Piero Quispe, a 22-year-old attacking midfielder who is already on the radar of several big European clubs. In fact, Inter Milan has already made inquiries suggesting that the Lima native might not be long for Liga MX.
Quispe was named the Liga 1 Player of the Year after helping Club Universitario win its first championship in a decade.
Then heading into the weekend, UNAM pulled off a stunner, acquiring Rogelio Funes Mori from Monterrey. Funes Mori – the Rayados’ all-time leading scorer – appeared on his way to Brazil’s Gremio when the Pumas entered the picture.
Funes Mori made it known that he preferred staying in Mexico and Monterrey management honored his wishes. The 32-year-old will either serve as a back-up forward or join Martínez in a two-headed striker force.
Just a season after the UNAM front office shored up its defense with the signings of veterans Nathan Silva and Lisandro Magallán, “los universitarios” have added considerable firepower to their locker room.
If coach Lema wants to emphasize offense, the Pumas could line up in a 4-1-3-2 formation with José Luis Caicedo as defensive midfielder back-stopping a five-man attack featuring Quispe in the middle of the field flanked by Huerta and Salvio, with Funes Mori and Martínez looking for balls in the box.
Although the Liga MX season begins next week, clubs have until Feb. 1 to shop in the transfer window, so the Pumas might not be done adjusting their roster.