Will Dani Alves be Pumas’ key to title? Can Cruz Azul’s Santiago Gimenez make transfer abroad?

In the latest round from Mexico’s top flight, Pumas made Liga MX’s biggest signing of the summee while Cruz Azul’s leading striker stayed hot ahead of a possible move to Europe. In case you missed anything, here are three talking points and some additional observations from the latest week of action in Liga MX.

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Dani Alves dreaming with Pumas

The most eye-catching news of the Liga MX last week had nothing to do with what happened on the field, instead, the Mexican soccer world was fixated on Pumas UNAM officially announcing on Saturday that they had signed Brazil international Dani Alves.

Recently a free agent after leaving Barcelona, the 39-year-old will look to revive a Pumas side that haven’t won a league championship since 2011. Although they are one of the traditional “Big Four” in Mexico, they’ve been criticized over the last few seasons for relying on rosters that lacked depth.

Bringing in Alves, who was unavailable for Pumas’ 0-0 away draw with Pachuca over the weekend, is an obvious sign that the team is finally looking to add more players through their sixth and most high-profile signing of the summer.

During his presentation, Alves became somewhat philosophical and noted that Pumas’ connection with club owners UNAM, one of the top universities in Latin America, inspired a move to the Mexico City team.

“The university was made so that people can dream, so that people can fight for their dreams and so that they can interact with the different social circles that exist in the world. That is why I have also made the decision to come here,” Alves said.

Cruz Azul’s Gimenez to move abroad?

Everything seems to be going Santiago Gimenez‘s way. The 21-year-old Mexican cemented a starting role for Cruz Azul, he’s the current league-leading scorer in the Apertura with five goals in four appearances, and if reports are to be believed, he could be heading to Dutch side Feyenoord in the near future.

“I played it as if it were my last [game with Cruz Azul], because anything is possible,” hinted Gimenez after scoring twice in a 2-2 draw with Puebla on Saturday.

Once a bench/rotation option for Cruz Azul, Gimenez’s rise is a promising sign for not only his career, but also for Mexico ahead of the World Cup. If he’s able to maintain his exciting form and carry that over to Europe, and if a deal goes through, El Tri manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino will have to give more attention to the youngster that has typically been at a third/fourth position in Mexico’s forward depth chart.

Rayados at top of the mountain

For the first time in 2022, Monterrey are No. 1 in the Liga MX table.

Needing a bit of a roster and managerial shake-up, one of the highest spenders in modern Mexican soccer have made progress with the return of veteran coach Victor Manuel Vucetich. Before gigs with Queretaro and Chivas, the 67-year-old claimed two Liga MX trophies and three consecutive CONCACAF Champions League titles while managing Los Rayados from 2009-13.

Vucetich seems to be the steady hand needed to govern the star-heavy squad, most notably leading to a rejuvenation of striker Rogelio Funes Mori. After scoring in Monterrey’s 3-0 away win over Queretaro last week, the Argentine-born Mexican now has four goals in just as many appearances this season.

Which is all even better news for El Tri and Martino. Along with Gimenez and Club America’s Henry Martin, Funes Mori is another alternate forward option that is fighting for a backup spot behind usual starter Raul Jimenez. Funes Mori has been average at best for Martino since 2021 and has needed a confidence boost like the one that has been seen over the last few weeks with Monterrey.

Additional observations

– Liga MX’s 26-man roster for the MLS All-Star game was announced last week. Tigres UANL forward Andre-Pierre Gignac, who was the top goalscorer from the 2022 Clausura, was a surprising omission from the squad. Sources told ESPN Mexico that the French striker opted out of the exhibition in order to avoid possible regulatory problems in the U.S. due to being unvaccinated for COVID-19.

– Last week, Portugal’s Sporting CP revealed that they had signed 18-year-old Mexican defender Jesus Alcantar. The deal for the teenager is reportedly on loan from Necaxa with an option to buy his contract.

– Club America conclude a U.S.-based midseason friendly swing by playing Real Madrid at San Francisco’s Oracle Park on Tuesday. Las Aguilas are currently in a poor run of form after a 2-0 defeat to Club Tijuana over the weekend, following to losses to Manchester City (2-1) in Houston and Chelsea (2-1) in Las Vegas. In other international friendlies with Liga MX clubs, Chivas were defeated 2-0 by Juventus in Las Vegas on Sunday.

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