It’s hard out here for pro soccer teams. Like when MLS teams beat out Liga MX teams to sign players.
That’s the word from Chivas de Guadalajara CEO Jose Luis Higuera this week, complaining about how they fell short in their pursuit of signing youth product Carlos Vela, who will instead join MLS expansion team Los Angeles Football Club in 2018.
Now, Chivas are coming off a season where they won Liga MX, and the current season has been a major struggle. After years of using retreads and very young players, they started paying for Mexican stars from Europe, like Alan Pulido, and paying a premium to bring in Liga MX stars to bolster the squad. It worked, as they won a title.
And so the strategy fell through in the pursuit of Vela, certainly a star of a bigger magnitude than anyone currently on the Chivas roster.
On one hand, it happens. Unless you’re a few enormous clubs in Europe, there’s always a team out there who could pay more for the player your team wants. And LAFC want to make a splash, and starting from scratch with a player near the top of the list as far as profile — a young-ish, attacking, Mexican star who also happens to be fluent in English — is probably easier for LAFC to pay for than Chivas at the moment.
But Higuera’s comments to some extent sound like bitter, bitter grapes.
"We made contact with Vela and we were very close, but if they beat you to it, they beat you to it," Higuera said on ESPN’s Fútbol Picante on Monday. "We can't compare ourselves or be irresponsible with the people, we don't have the economic power of MLS.
"The day that MLS decides to go for Europeans and to have a Champions [League], they have the power and money to do it and players dance for money.
"Players don't play and then see if they get paid, and even less so these days."
The irony here is that on the MLS side of the divide, there’s been a constant lamentation about how far behind MLS is from Liga MX. The proof is most notably in the CONCACAF Champions League pudding, where MLS upsets over Liga MX teams remain few and far between, and no MLS team has yet won the competition since it was switched to the current format. The new-new format, with MLS and Liga MX teams foregoing the group stage altogether and being parachuted into the knockout stages, may help their chances, or it may keep Liga MX on top of the regional pack indefinitely.
At any rate, MLS fans complain because of Liga MX’s superior purchasing power for their rosters, while this Liga MX team exec is complaining that MLS can pay more. Who’s right here?
To some extent, they both are. Given the salary cap restrictions currently in place in MLS, it’s pretty clear that the average Liga MX roster gets paid more than an MLS counterpart, and so the players at the bottom half of rosters almost certainly get paid much more in Mexico than in MLS. At the same time, aside from Pierre-Andre Gignac, Liga MX is not a destination for players in Europe who are not from Latin America. So the top stars are much more likely to go to MLS than Liga MX, and the handful of players at the top in MLS get paid way more than their counterparts in Mexico.
But given the Chivas owner’s former foray in MLS, especially when he decided to go as cheap as possible and purposely ran his team into the ground, can’t say I feel very bad about Chivas failing to sign Vela. This doesn’t mean LAFC will always get the players that they want or that there is anything “just” in one team signing a player over another in general. But Higuera’s comments offer a “woe is me” vibe that is hilarious to read, in context.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!