The obstacles of playing in Europe 

January, 5, 2012

With the news that Efrain Juarez and Pablo Barrera are likely both on their way back to Mexico after their countryman coach Javier Aguirre was dismissed from his post at Zaragoza, the Mexican contingent in Europe is set to take a hit.

If Barrera and Juarez return, only about a dozen Mexicans will be left in the continent's premier leagues, with another few in less-important leagues around the periphery. Any way you count, it's a remarkably low number of foreign legionnaires for a country with the talent pool and international prestige of Mexico, both in absolute numbers and relative to footballing nations of equal or lesser quality in the region and around the world.

So it follows to ask how, for example, countries like Ghana and the United States have hundreds of players in Europe, while Mexico has so few. But a more important question for the future success of El Tri is whether the next generation of talented players will be able to close the gap. Having more young players abroad will be key to the future success of El Tri against the world's best teams. For Mexico to compete at the highest levels, its young players need to be competing against the best every day from a young age.

The moves abroad of U-20s Ulises Davila, Edson Rivera and Taufic Guarch are promising, but do they signal a trend or just an outlier in an extraordinary period of talent development in Mexico? The struggles of that trio to find playing time also show why getting more players to Europe is important for national teams -- while all players have ups and downs, it's a numbers game, and if enough make the move, then some will always be in form to draw from.

Given the recent success of Mexico's youth teams, the lasting impression its young players have made of late, and with emerging talent and plenty of overseas interest in rising stars like Jorge Enriquez and Erick Torres, it would be reasonable to expect a coming influx of young Mexicans to Europe. But for that to happen, young Mexicans would need to overcome a list of substantial obstacles off the field that have held their countrymen back for decades.

Brent Latham is a soccer commentator who covers the youth national teams for Based in Guatemala, he has attended youth World Cups from Peru to Egypt, and places in between.

Soccer, , Mexico