Why Miguel Layun Can Be Mexico's Surprise Package at the 2014 World Cup

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Why Miguel Layun Can Be Mexico's Surprise Package at the 2014 World Cup
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Miguel Layun debuted with Mexico in the 2013 Gold Cup. Now, he has become a regular for the team and could make a huge impact in the 2014 World Cup.

Layun has come a long way and has put behind the tough times he lived through in his first years as a regular player of the Liga MX.

After three seasons with Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz, he left for Italy and became the first Mexican to play for Atalanta; however, he only spent 32 minutes on the pitch.

Six months later, he returned to Mexico and joined Club America, one of the biggest teams of the country.

However, Layun was not welcomed and instead had to sort through a wave of hostility from American fans and other football followers.

The hatred took over Twitter. The hashtag #TodoEsCulpaDeLayun ("It's all Layun's fault") spread like wildfire and became a trending topic within hours.

America fans were not convinced that a 22-year-old who barely played in Italy's Serie A was worthy to wear a Las Aguilas jersey.

Layun told FIFA.com in 2013:

I had to try very hard and push myself to the limit to change the situation I was in. A lot of people had opinions without knowing the reality and it was difficult explaining things and trying to convince everyone. The only way to change anything was to do my talking out on the pitch instead of on social networks.

He took the infamous hashtag as the perfect excuse to become better, and it worked. Last May, America pulled a miracle and tied the aggregate score with Cruz Azul in the second leg of the final match.

It all went down to penalty kicks, and Layun took the last one for Las Aguilas; he put the ball away and helped his club to secure its 11th league title.

Two months later came the Gold Cup. He debuted with Mexico's alternate team and proved how valuable he could be when running through the flanks, both of them.

Mexico national team manager Miguel Herrera capped him again when El Tri was going through a dark period that put the team in a two-legged game against New Zealand. Layun did it again and assisted on three of Mexico's nine goals.

Layun has been a thriving force in the attack despite being a defender. He can play as a left-back or right-back with the same effectiveness.

He is very fast, skillful and posses a fantastic stride. The America player can leave behind midfielders and defenders in the blink of an eye.

What he has been doing in the past six months is precisely what Carlos Salcido and Ricardo Osorio showed in the 2005 Confederations Cup.

Salcido set himself up as a splendid left-back, while Osorio did his work from the right. Both of them were elusive and strong and could feed the ball in style, especially with crosses to the heart of the box.

Mexico have always depended on the sidelines to craft dangerous plays. Their aerial game, now the responsibility of Oribe Peralta, is very powerful, while the direct and wall passes are key for the close-range shots.

Layun can give El Tri all of the above. His abilities set him as the kind of player that provides depth through the sidelines but who can also take part in set pieces.

More importantly, he helps the attack without compromising the team in the backline; he knows how and when to go back to support.

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Last year, El Tri didn't have a player who could take over Salcido's position. The Tigres defender was an undisputed starter, but little by little, the years take their toll, and Salcido had to move to a more strategic role in the midfield.

Jorge Torres Nilo was the first choice to replace him, but despite his efforts, he was never as explosive and creative. 

Layun will make it to Herrera's 23-man list, but there is one thing that will be his fault: giving back the strong play through the flanks, which used to be a clear strength of Mexico.

 

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