Guadalajara is near the bottom of the relegation standings, but new management is only looking for hardware.
As América advances in the Apertura 2019 Liguilla, Chivas fans are no doubt gritting their teeth. But new general manager Ricardo Peláez is already overhauling Guadalajara’s roster in a concerted effort to bring El Rebaño Sagrado its 13th Liga MX title sooner rather than later.
The “most popular team in Mexico” is no longer going to worry about relegation, Peláez said upon being introduced to the media. Instead, “we are going to focus on playoffs and trophies.”
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The new man in charge has made it clear he intends to be active in the winter transfer market with an eye on bringing a quick end to the club’s historic five-season playoff drought.
Peláez’s most recent move would replace league-leading scorer Alan Pulido with 20-year-old striker J.J. Macías, a trade-off that could be a windfall for the Chivas.
Pulido has expressed a desire to leave the team, so selling him now could bring a nice profit, whether it be to an MLS team or a Liga MX rival (Cruz Azul, Monterrey). Meanwhile, the acquisition of Macías is cost-free as his one-year loan deal to León is expiring. The callow striker scored 19 goals for the Esmeraldas in 2019 while also exploding onto the scene with the senior national team, finding the net 4 times in 3 games with Team Mexico.
Calderón has had a break-out year with Necaxa, flashing talent that has allowed him to stake a claim as Martino’s first-choice fullback.
The 22-year-old Guadalajara native came up through the Atlas system, but Chivas fans will forgive him that if he continues his current form. Calderón scored in each leg of Necaxa’s quarterfinals victory over Querétaro; he’ll next face El Tri teammates Rodolfo Pizarro and Charlie Rodríguez of Monterrey with a chance to compete in the Apertura 2019 Finals.
Antuna started his career with Santos Laguna then signed with Manchester City who loaned him out to Eredivisie club Groningen before he found success on loan with the L.A. Galaxy. He was invited to Team Mexico’s training camp ahead of the Gold Cup and he lucked onto the final roster as a last-minute injury replacement.
Antuna worked hard and earned a starting spot in El Tri’s tournament opener against Cuba and scored a hat trick. He has been a fan favorite ever since and finished 2019 as Team Mexico’s joint top scorer with Raúl Jiménez (7 goals).
The cost-effective switch of Macías for Pulido is a salve to Peláez’s budget since reports indicated that the Chivas had initially balked at Man City’s high asking price for Antuna (said to be in excess of $11 million).
Other young stars on Peláez’s wish list include Pachuca’s dynamic midfield duo of Víctor Guzmán (a Chivas academy grad) and Erick Aguirre, as well as Necaxa central defender Alexis Peña (a Pachuca product).
Coach Luis Fernando Tena is already prepping for the Clausura 2020, eager to begin chasing a 13th star for Guadalajara’s shield.