Cuauhtemoc Blanco

This is my second post in the run up to the World Cup, and due to popular demand (well, the demand of one, but still…) I thought I’d give the greatest player in Mexico’s history, in my opinion, a mention. He’ll be going to South Africa, bar any injuries and madcap antics – he missed Germany in 2006 after falling out rather drastically with then manager Ricardo La Volpe. What’s he like now, as he reaches the end of his career? Too old. Too slow. Both are true. But Mexican legend Blanco will be going to the World Cup anyway, and I don’t think anyone in Mexico really begrudges his inclusion. The parallels with David Beckham can be made – they did both leave more competitive leagues to play in the US Major League Soccer competition, and they both made something of an impact there.

Beckham grabbed more headlines, but I suspect Blanco was more important to the US league. It was always going to be a difficult mission, if not impossible an impossible one, to convince the basketball, NFL, NHL and baseball fans away from the traditional sports north of the border – that was the goal given to Beckham. He didn’t do badly, really. But were the new supporters really following the football, or were they following Becks?

Blanco had a different job to do. He didn’t have to convert followers of other sports to football. He simply had to convince the large Hispanic population, the Mexicans in particular, who live in the US to stop following the leagues down south in Latin America, and take an interest in the football on offer in the US.  He went off to Chicago Fire, and also did a pretty reasonable job. He drew crowds as large, if not larger, than his illustrious European counterpart.

They are both getting on, Becks and Blanco. But whilst the former  faced quite a lot of criticism (or at least the England manager did) when picked for the national team, Blanco’s inclusion is pretty much universally popular. Not least, because he’s a different sort of player than Beckham. He has flair, imagination and a deft touch that opens defences in a split second. Too slow? He creates goals standing still sometimes. He can still knock them in too, and played a big part in Mexico winning the Gold Cup last year.  And he is their talisman.

How do I rate him? I’ve seen him play just once in Mexico, when he was still with Americas. Everyone outpaced him. I’ve rarely seen someone in a top flight league so short of pace in fact. But his touch, vision and imagination were so superior to everyone else on the park, he was still the most likely source of a goal. He was a joy to watch. He still is, and I’ll be as happy as anyone to see him pull on the green shirt of Mexico in South Africa. He’s also a great character, and he has known controversy during his career! Here’s a video of his ten greatest goals – enjoy.

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  • It is good to know you are also another Liverpool supporter Gary ! Indeed I hope we will get rid of those two Americans too.. I am frustrated also with the way Benitez managed this season, but I still have faith in him for one more year… If he wants only… I just hope they will not sell Torres to City to get the necessary funds he is asking for…

    • His substitutions have been particularly questionable for the last couple of years. We really should have won the league last season – a long stretch of draws where Rafa refused to play more offensively cost us the title.

      From what I understand, Rafa is on his way to Juventus for next season. I think that is almost definitely going to happen.

      Torres must stay, or we are doomed!

  • I definitely support Gary . I love Cuau and he is the kind of players that has the guts to take the whole team in his shoulders and win the game on his own… Hugo was great, but he always needed somebody to send him the passes to score.
    It is nice to see you are enjoying Mexican Football… Liverpool just got trashed out from Eurocopa.. so those were bad news for my premier league team….

    • I’ve been a lifelong Liverpool supporter. More than 30 years. I used to see them play all the time in London, although I used to go watch England just as much – Wembley was my local stadium.

      This season has been such a huge let down. Should Benitez go? Till now I’ve said there’s no point in replacing him unless we can get a manager who is proven and genuinely better, and there’s not many of them about. I’d love Mourinho. I can dream.

      I’ve decided after tonight though that he simply has to go at the end of the season. His team selections are so far off, his substitutions often ridiculous and I’m seriously concerned that he’s lost the dressing room, or at least an important part of it. I’d even say we should give Alex McCleish a go, which is something I thought crazy just a few months ago. He is Scottish after all, and Scots have a good track record in the Premier League. I just hope that is he does get the job, he doesn’t turn into a Graeme Souness.

      Of course, it still remains – the most important thing is to be rid of the two Americans who own the club.

  • Gary;

    Thanks. I figured it would distill down to that…………money.

    Have fun at the Chile match. Should be a good test. I highly recommend not wearing your England gear. From a self preservation standpoint.

    On the other hand, I wonder what would happen if you showed up in an Arsenal jersey with ‘Vela’ on the back. Skirting danger versus taunting danger. Unless your Liverpool sensibilities prohibited you from doing so……………

    Michael

  • Keeping this soccer related………boxing will come later.

    Riddle me this………

    Since the beginning of the year, Mexico has scheduled 11 WC tuneups. Of those, 6 were scheduled in the US and two were scheduled for Mexico

    Two.

    Somewhat related is the fact that Mexico is playing more matches in the US than the US.

    I have been trying to wrap my head around all of this. From a NOB perspective, it can be said that more people would attend a soccer match with the Mexican national team in attendance than the US national team. More people, bigger gate. So is it all about money? Is this some sick FIFA/USSF/FMF money making scheme?

    US/Mexico is supposed to be a rivalry. This situation is like having the Brazilian national team playing the majority of their friendlies in Argentina. Or England playing all of their friendlies in France/Germany/Holland/insert name of country that does not like England on the pitch.

    Is it hard to convince other national teams to play at Azteca? What about alternative venues?

    If the roles were reversed between the US and Mexico, I am sure there would a huge outrage. Why not now?

    Or is there?

    Summing this up: I am looking for a south of the border perspective here. Is it OK for your national team to play the majority of their WC tuneups in another country? Are you OK with having only two of those friendlies being played at home?

    This request is not a cry for nationalism. Nor should it involve politics. Well, the non soccer related politics. Does anyone else think this arrangement is strange?

    Michael

    • I chatted about this with a friend today. We both concluded that its all about money. It’s been going on a long time too. They can not only charge a few dollars extra per seat in the US, but there’s extra TV, sponsorship and advertising revenue to be gained.

      It is a very sad situation. I would be furious if English ‘home’ friendlies were played in another country. I think everyone would be outraged, and I couldn’t see the people responsible keeping their jobs for long.

      Even if they decided to play a few games away from Estadio Azteca, there’s plenty of large stadiums in big cities in Mexico that would be happy to host a game or two. Guadalajara and Monterrey spring instantly to mind.

      Still, at least of those two games, I’m getting to go to the Azteca to see one of them!

  • I have stayed out of the Sanchez/Blanco debate for a reason: there is no answer. However, I think Gary has given the best and well thought out response I have ever heard. For that, I agree.

    You could make this fun and have striker/midfielder/defender categories. Then we can have a Hernandez/Borgetti and Suarez/Marquez sidebar.

    After the World Cup, please have a discussion who is the best Mexican boxer of all time. You shall have many responses.

    Michael

    • At last, someone agrees with something I said!

      Best boxer? That’s even more difficult! My favourite would be Erik ‘El Terrible’ Morales. The guy had fire in his belly and lead in his gloves. Not literally though, I hope.

  • Sanchez is Mexico’s greatest player, But Temo is Mexico’s greatest national team player. By no fault of Sanchez’s, though. Sanchez did not participate in 82 qualifying until the last game, and could not get Mexico through. He did not play for Mexico again until the World Cup in 86 because had no need to qualify. And in 1990, of course, Mexico was booted from the competition altogether. Sanchez just didn’t get as many chances as Blanco got.

    Sanchez did acquit himself well for Mexico in the twilight of his career in the lead in to the 94 world cup, but the lasting image will always be him standing on the sidelines in Giants Stadium.

    Blanco, on the other hand, has always played well for Mexico. He seems to save his best for Mexico. No one questions his effort when he wears the green shirt.

    • I’d forgotten all about Mexico and 1990! Very unfortunate. A bit harsh too I think. I’m not sure Brazil, England, Germany or Argentina would have suffered the same punishment for that offence. It was a stupid thing to do though.

      I’m clearly fighting a losing argument here though with my support for Blanco as the greatest. Perhaps I can persuade y’all on a compromise. Sanchez is the greatest Mexican player of all time. Blanco is Mexico’s greatest player of all time. Yes? No?

      🙂

  • I know this is off-topic Gary but were you able to cast your vote for the British General Election? Nick Clegg is suddenly neck to neck with Cameron and Brown!

    • Nah. Really couldn’t be bothered. My post on the subject was as much effort as I could be bothered to put in. It’s too late now anyway.

      But yep, Clegg sure has made a massive impression. That has made the election much more interesting. I am looking forward to seeing how the increase in poll support transforms into seats in parliament. A hung parliament is looking much more likely. That’s not necessarily a good thing for the UK though, in my opinion. Unless it’s done properly. With rope. 🙂

      I suspect his stance (or at least the position his party have adopted) on nuclear weapons may hurt him over the coming fortnight though.

  • Gary, I’m not sure that Hugo played for a weak Real Madrid -after all, during his time there Real won 5 Spanish championships, 2 Supercopas and 2 UEFA Cups… And he was voted in the Top 10 of All Times of Real Madrid (http://www.realmadrid.com/cs/Satellite/es/1193040472416/1202818350940/noticia/Noticia/!El_madridismo_decidio!.htm)

    Anyhow, I think we agree that Hugo’s success was more celebrated in Spain than in Mexico (when he retired, there was much more fuss in Spain than in Mexico… ). Even ardent anti-Americanistas (the club, not the country!) like myself admire him…

    Coming back to ‘Cuauh’, I don’t see why he won’t be able to have a big role this World Cup. Remember Roger Milla? He was 38 when he led Cameroon to the Quarter Finals of the World Cup. ‘Cuauh’ is no longer fast, but speed has never been Mexico’s main tactic. The main tactic is passing the ball quickly, keeping it on the ground, making the rival run around till they leave a gap or leave a man unmarked. Cuauh is excellent at observing the movements of players and his technique is outstanding. In fact, the problem is not that he is weak when attacking, but that he does not contribute much defensively in the midfield.

    I can’t wait for the World Cup to begin. Oh, South Africa, please forgive us!

    • He did do well at Real, but my point was that they failed to win a European Cup in that period, and at a time when the strongest nation were banned from European competition. They came close to a final once. But then there was the 5-0 thrashing they got from AC Milan. And sure, they won 5 league titles. But that, to me, suggests that the league wasn’t at its most competitive.

      Its just that I feel that because he succeeded in Spain, more so than any other Mexican, he jumped to number one in the all time list. And the state of Spanish footy at the time seems irrelevant.

      On the international stage, it’s Cuauhtemoc who performed the better, by some margin.

      I will say though that Sanchez could pull off a scissor kick with some aplomb. And it’s only fair, I guess, that I link to a video of his ten best goals…

      Hugo Sanchez Top Ten

  • In the 2002 WC, Mexico and the US played in a second round match. ‘Temo’ was at his prime and was neutralized by a dogged and determined Pablo Mastroeni who shadowed him the entire game. In that same game Rafael Marquez was red carded for a vicous headbutt on Cobi Jones. US won that game 2-0. I was rooting for Mexico, BTW.

    As you have pointed out, ‘Temo’ did not play in the 2006 WC.

    Four years later, a few pounds more and a few steps less, I dunno.

    I spend more time watching Mexican futbol that I do American soccer because I enjoy the pace of the game better. For example, I will spend time watching the Morelia and Cruz Azul matches tomorrow because both teams are on the bubble and need to win.

    Is Blanco popular? Absolutely. ‘Temomania’ even reaches this far North. Even though it supports a second division team in Veracruz, Mexicans still love him. However if football was a popularity contest, Ronaldinho would be a shoe-in from Brazil. Great career, great smile, he has more international appeal than Blanco ever would have (and can still play at the highest level).

    I still stand on the fact that his inclusion on the team prevents an up and comer from making the team. There are many to chose from, both playing in Mexico and playing internationally.

    My Mexican friends are mixed on this, BTW. They all agree that he is past his prime but they want to see him do well.

    It sure makes for interesting conversation though. Going over rosters is almost as fun as watching the actual game. John Terry references included. 🙂

    Michael

    • Messi was effectively taken out of the ECL semi against Inter last week. But he’ll not be judged on that one game. There’s been plenty of games where he wasn’t.

      And Marquez….yeah that’s silly. But it happens. He went on to pick up a couple of Champions League medals, so I’m not sure that that red card sums up his career. Beckham went from utter villain for getting himself sent off to national god. For a few weeks at least.

      To carry on the Beckham/Blanco comparisons, the same argument has been made in England, that Beckhams inclusion over the last couple of years has hindered younger players from breaking through. I see the point, but I have a couple of thoughts in Blancos favour. Firstly, he did retire for some while from international football. Younger players did have the opportunity to come through and make the place their own.

      Secondly, he doesn’t play the full 90 minutes so often now, so younger players still get the opportunity to make an impresion.

      And lastly, his performance at the Gold Cup….that earned him a place then on merit.

      John Terry references are always welcome!

  • Cuauh is great, but -greatest Mexican player ever? Hugo Sanchez is normally regarded as the best Mexican player ever because of his achievements with Real Madrid -he was top scorer of the Spanish league for 5 consecutive seasons (1984-1990)! However, Hugo Sanchez was not a huge popular idol in Mexico because (a) he’s always been recklessly arrogant and uncharismatic, and (b) he did not do very well with the National team (who knows what he’d have done, had he played in the World Cup of 1990 to which Mexico, ehm, was not invited).

    Cuauhtemoc is probably better liked by many Mexicans (at least by Mexican men.. he’s a bit of a misogynist), while Hugo Sanchez always liked it better in Spain. In any case, for any Mexican under 30 years of age, Cuauhtemoc is the bigger star. For example, I grew up watching Cuauh play, I remember when he was a skinny 22 year old playing for the Mexican team in the Olympics of Atlanta ’96.

    • I know I go against the general grain when I place Hugo above Cuau, but in my opinion Blanco was (is) just more of a natural talent. I know Hugo had great success in Spain, and that is what is mentioned every time I suggest Cuau is the better of the two. But, I do have a response.

      Firstly, there are only two clubs in the Spanish league. Real and Barca. Every now and then, a third team pops up to win a title or two, but overall the league is Spain is utterly dominated by the Madrid and Catalan pair. So if you are a striker for one or the other, you’ll score lots of goals. If you’re a striker for one of them that is having a golden patch in the league, you probably will win a few golden boots.

      Secondly, how good were Madrid back then, compared to the rest of Europe? They didn’t win a European Cup when Hugo was with them. And Sanchez played for Real at a time when the biggest teams in the competition were banned. All English clubs were kicked out of Europe after the Heysel stadium disaster, and remained out till 1990.

      And English clubs had been much more dominant in Europe then than they have been in the last few years. In the nine European Cups from 1977 to 1985, and English team appeared in eight of the finals and lifted the cup seven times.

      So, perhaps, it could be said that Hugo Sanchez played for a poor Real team at a time when the Spanish League was in a pretty poor state itself. In which case, his achievements don’t match up to the hype, to a certain degree.

      I don’t want to completely write off his achievements though, so I will add that winning the golden boot still requires a player to knock the ball in the back of the net very consistently, and even a poor Madrid and a poor Spanish League is still a pretty decent standard of football.

      Cuau’s Spanish adventure wasn’t as pretty, but his performances for Mexico, both in competitive games and friendlies, have been far superior to those of Sanchez. Only Borgetti has scored more goals for Mexico.

      Am I convincing you?!

      • The biggest teams? ha…good one. The Italian teams rules Europe back on those late 80’s and the early 90’s . All the biggest players of the moment were playing in Italia. The “Calcio” back on those days was the Premier League of today,
        it wasn’t boring like today.

        I think that the Temo still has things to contribute to the Tri as good touch of ball, big vision of game and mental quickness. He can solve a game if it is needed in the last twenty minutes.

        Is Cuauhtémoc Blanco the best player of Mexico? I would say yes to that for the only fact of having been born in the Americanist nest. There is nothing more to say.

        BTW Here’s an interesting link:

        http://news.sportsinteraction.com/sports/soccer/mexico-south-africa-progress-group-33223/

      • I’ll make a bet with you. I bet you can’t find a single Italian team who beat an English side from the 85/86 season through to the 90/91 season. Nor a Spanish team. Nor a German team. Nor any other European team.

        No English team was beaten, not even once, in that period 🙂

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