Former Chivas center back Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez looks set to return to Mexico’s first division with his most likely destination Club America. Some Mexican media outlets have already reported it as a done deal, while Stuttgart’s Sporting Director Fredi Bobic has admitted that the club has the players to fill Rodriguez’s departure.
Maza’s European career began back in the summer of 2008 when it was announced he would be leaving Chivas to join PSV. There were a few eyebrows raised at the move and many doubted whether the defender could cut it over in Europe.
Rodriguez has gradually dispelled those doubts, first at the Eredivisie club and then in the Bundesliga with Stuttgart.
After impressing in two quality European leagues, he’d be well-advised to think long and hard before returning to Mexico, especially if there are offers from other European leagues on the table for the 31-year-old.
A return to Mexico is risky for the Sinaloa-born player who has established himself as captain of the national team and the rock at the center of El Tri’s defense.
Maza would be competing directly with young defenders looking to topple him from the national team. The likes of Hugo Ayala and Hiram Mier, not to mention his possible future teammate Diego Reyes, are snapping at his heels.
Mier and Reyes, especially, are supremely talented center backs, but Rodriguez has one key ingredient that they don’t: top level experience. The more he can build on that between now and 2014, the better his case will be to remain in the national team, but it won’t come from returning to Mexico.
There is plenty of competition for places in El Tri and playing in Germany has a prestige attached to it that wouldn’t be afforded to Rodriguez in Mexico. The odd mistake can be forgiven in the Bundesliga, but a high profile defensive error for America against, say, San Luis would be scrutinized over and over in Mexico and questions immediately raised as to Maza’s suitability in El Tri.
That will be exaggerated further at the giant that is America, although moving to a club likely to be challenging for the title, rather than back to the unstable Chivas, is a plus, even if hardcore fans on both sides of Mexico’s most-hyped club rivalry will not be happy.
If Maza’s move to America does happen, the transfer would also come as a stark reminder that there is a slow, gradual generational shift in the Mexican national team. As Rodriguez completes his European adventure and moves home, 20-year-old Aguilas youth product Reyes is set to head the other way to Porto in the summer.
Joining Reyes in Europe very soon are likely to be Hector Herrera and Marco Fabian, while Carlos Salcido and Rafa Marquez are back in Mexico after achieving success in Europe.
Times are changing for El Tri and watching how Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre manages the process and how quickly the changeover happens will be fascinating in 2013.
Rodriguez, however, may well be better off over in Europe, holding his form and hoping that his experience makes him an unmovable part of the national team.
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- Sports & Recreation