Two El Tri 'players emeritus' making twilight career decisions

Guardado headed back to Liga MX? Vela pondering controversial crosstown move
Carlos Vela (left) and Andrés Guardado seen side-by-side during a game against Brazil in the 2018 World Cup. Vela is a free agent while Guardado is considering a return to Liga MX.
Carlos Vela (left) and Andrés Guardado seen side-by-side during a game against Brazil in the 2018 World Cup. Vela is a free agent while Guardado is considering a return to Liga MX. / Jam Media/GettyImages

Two former El Tri stars have popped up in Hot Stove League conversations this week, while an erstwhile Team Mexico stud will try to jump-start his career by returning to a familiar team.

Long-time El Tri skipper Andrés Guardado could be headed back to Liga MX as early as next week. “El Principito” is out of contract in June and Real Betis have granted the veteran midfielder a soft landing by apparently shipping him to León.

The 37-year-old Guardado left Liga MX 18 years ago and the Guadalajara native has had a solid career with the likes of Deportivo la Coruña, PSV Eindhoven, Bayer Leverkusen and Real Betis. Among club trophies earned are two Eredivisie titles and a Copa del Rey, while “El Principito” has also earned three Gold Cup medals and hoisted the 2015 Concacaf Cup.

Of course, Hot Stove League rumors are rather hit-and-miss, but social media is abuzz with stories that talks are rather advanced

One wonders why Atlas – the club that birthed Guardado and proudly sent the spritely 20-year-old off on a European journey – did not trouble to bring back one of their most successful academy products (behind only Rafa Márquez on that list).

Atlas did, back in 2019, talk to their scion about coming back to Liga MX and retiring with the “Los rojinegros.” But Guardado said he thought he could still compete at La Liga level, and he was right as he’s played in more than 100 La Liga games since then.

Guardado did communicate with team president Alejandro Irarragorri in 2022 and again last year that he sorely wanted to finish his career at Atlas.

But Zorros management evidently never reached out nor did they respond to the news that their prodigal son was negotiating with a rival Liga MX franchise.

Is Vela performing a West L.A. Fadeaway?

Would Carlos Vela betray The 3252 and all LAFC fans by walking across town to join the team’s hated rivals?

Well, if you read the sports headlines it’s easy to think the deal is all but complete.

Vela is out of contract with LAFC, the expansion club that he helped lead to an MLS Cup victory and two Supporters Shields while earning league MVP honors as well as a Golden Boot.

The LAFC-LA Galaxy rivalry has become among the best in the world (only a mild exaggeration) and the atmosphere at this derby – known fondly as "The Traffic" – is not to be missed.

So to have a club legend stroll across the street to the enemy can only stoke this MLS feud even further.

If Vela does sign with the Galaxy (there are reports that former club Real Sociedad is also asking questions), the one-time Team Mexico star would be replacing his former El Tri teammate, “Chicharito” Hernández.

I’m not waiting to see if the deal materializes, I’m looking up the MLS schedule right now.

Alexis Vega returning to Liga MX roots?

After a difficult 12 months, it seems that Alexis Vega will avoid an undignified Clausura 2024.

Vega appears destined to return to his original club, Toluca, hammering out an agreement rather quickly once it became apparent that the Chivas were determined to sideline him for the entire season.

Guadalajara management had become fed up with his constant disciplinary issues and told him he would not be on any game-day roster with them. They stood firm even after Vega filed a complaint with the AMFPro players union.

Even so, Vega nixed a trade to Cruz Azul because the Cementeros were demanding restrictions and obligations be inserted into his contract. 

The 26-year-old winger thought he could force Guadalajara’s hand (also reportedly swatting aside a trade to the San Jose Earthquakes by declaring that the only MLS clubs he’d accept a trade to were LA Galaxy and Inter Miami), but Chivas ownership called his bluff.

Instead of risking a semester on the sidelines before heading into free agency, Vega’s agents were put to work talking contract. A growing reputation as a trouble-maker would severely hurt the Mexico City native on the open market especially as his career highlights are now two years in the rear-view mirror

As such, a season back in the familiar confines of La Bombonera could be just what the doctor ordered. Of course, he is being asked to reduce his wage demands and then he'll have to quickly grasp the tactics and alignments utilized by first-year coach Renato Pavia.

The new-look Diablos Rojos are an attack-minded squad within which Vega could thrive, provided he re-commits to training and sheds the extra pounds he’s been exhibiting.

Next. Liga MX: Plenty of late-game heroics on M1. Liga MX: Plenty of late-game heroics on Matchday 1. dark

One hopes the upcoming Nations League and Copa América tournaments are further incentive for the brash winger – an Olympic bronze-medal winner and arguably El Tri's top-performing player at the 2022 World Cup. If not, Vega can kiss the 2026 World Cup good-bye.