Remember when América spent a bunch of money trying to build the best team in Mexico? The time when they were known as Los Millonetas and were spending the big bucks for coach Leo Beenhakker, Hugo Sánchez and Francois Oman-Biyik, seems pretty far away now. There’s a new team in town dropping stacks – fat stacks – in the Mexican league: los Tigres. With the Copa Libertadores semifinal just two weeks away, the team is doing the most to get an epic squad for this season; according to Transfermarkt the team is now worth approximately $12 million more than América today.
Nowhere is the cash more evident than in los Tigres signing of French player André-Pierre Gignac. Unless you’re an intense soccer fan, or a close follower of the French League, you may be wondering why Mexican media has been acting like this guy is such a big deal.
It’s because he is.
In recent years, La Liga MX has begun signing a few European players – rather than limiting itself to Central and South Americans as it has in the past – but so far the results have been meh. Players like Spaniards Luis Garcia and Marc Crosas, for instance, have made decent additions to the league, but nothing out of the ordinary. But Gignac is the first player to arrive in his prime, and Tigres are paying dearly for the privilege. He’ll make around $4 million dollars per season, much more than La Liga MX’s current top-paid player Roque Santa Cruz, who makes $2.6 million.
At only 29 years-old, André-Pierre Gignac’s last call to the French National team was just last November. He was the second-best striker in the French league this past season with 21 goals, 2 more than Ibrahimovic and 3 more than Edinson Cavani. In the 2008-2009 season he was the top-scorer of the league with 24 goals; 7 more than Karim Benzema the year he signed with Real Madrid.
It’s unclear what moving to Mexico will mean for the French striker if he wants to make it back onto the national team for the 2016 Euro Cup, which his country will be hosting. But for los Tigres, who are playing the 1st leg game of the Copa Libertadores Semifinals against a Brazilian squad, he represents their best chance to become the 1st Mexican team to ever win the South American Champions League (to which Mexico goes as a guest).
In addition to the French striker, Tigres has also signed Nigerian star Ikechukwu Uche, who is coming from a not-so-great season with Villarreal, but at 31 years-old still has great potential (in the 2013-2014 season he scored 14 goals, more than David Villa and Colombian star Carlos Bacca).
They have also signed Javier Aquino, the Mexican winger who spent 2 seasons in Spain but was unable to become a regular starter for Villarreal and Rayo Vallecano, as well as Jurgen Damm, the 22 year-old Mexican promise from Pachuca who they reportedly paid $7.5 million dollars for.
In short, Tigres is now becoming the team that can afford to bring Mexican players in Europe back to their homeland.
And they’re going for La Libertadores con todo. In the meantime, we can only wait to see if these aggressive signings will mean a historic result for Mexican fútbol, or whether, like América, it will prove that spending money does not necessarily translate into titles for Mexican teams.