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.