Mexico’s dramatic World Cup Qualifying win on Friday night against Panama announced on the world stage one of the hottest prospects from Liga MX and made the rest of the football community stand up and take notice of Raul Jimenez. The 22-year-old, Club America front man has been in impressive form for Las Aguilas but the spectacular overhead kick to give Mexico a precious victory has perhaps fast tracked his move to Europe.
Those familiar with Mexican football will not be surprised to see the name of Raul Jimenez buzzing on social media amid reports linking him with a move away from the Estadio Azteca, as he has developed into the most feared striker in Liga MX.
A product of Club America’s famous academy, Jimenez made his full team debut in 2011 but it was in last year’s Clausura triumph that he really made a name for himself. Landing a starting berth alongside, Ecudorian, Cristian ‘Chucho’ Benitez, Jimenez proved to be a great foil for the league’s most deadly striker and Benitez ended as the league’s top goalscorer in the championship winning season.
This season, Jimenez has found himself the main man in the America attack and he has seized the opportunity, scoring 7 goals in 10 games. And now, it appears Jimenez is staking a strong claim to play the same role for the national side. His previous involvement with El Tri was during the Gold Cup when the side was largely from a reserve squad but Friday night’s match winner came when the stakes couldn’t be any higher.
In the same match that Jimenez fired in this spectacular winner, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez missed a penalty and the young number 9 is now breathing down the neck of the Manchester United star.
And so the inevitable talk of a big money switch to Europe has intensified but the plight of Chicharito should be a warning to Jimenez.
At 22 years of age, Jimenez requires to be playing regular football and so a move to one of Europe’s elite clubs where he may spend long periods on the sidelines would be harmful both to him and Mexico. Carlos Vela is another good example, where chances were hard to come by at Arsenal, he has flourished since completing a move to Real Sociedad. A club playing in the top flight but perhaps not at the top of the table would be ideal for Jimenez to continue his development.
What exactly would any of these clubs be getting? Jimenez is a very well-rounded striker which makes him so desirable. With the tendency with most European clubs to play with only 1 main striker, rather than the old days of 4-4-2, Jimenez offers all the attributes needed to play here. Big and strong, he is capable of holding the ball up but with good feet he can drop and contribute to build up play, bringing teammates into play and he also has a bit of pace and the ability to beat a man. His time as a second striker, alongside Benitez, illustrated his creative abilities and he has since proved his goalscoring talents.
This versatility is what distinguishes him from a player like Chicharito. The Manchester United strikers inability to do these other tasks is the reason for his limited role but could go some way to explain why Jimenez may have a more successful career in Europe.
PSV Eindhoven and Porto have both been credited with links to Jimenez but if he continues to score goals and lead America to consecutive titles the number of potential suitors could rapidly multiply. Remaining at America for a while longer could see him become a club legend, in the vein of Cuauhtémoc Blanco. His potential is huge and so America can expect a big payday when the time comes that he does move on.
Enjoy the wonderful winner against Panama once again…
Here is Jimenez doing what he does best for Club America