Central America is a hotbed of footballing talent, with some excellent players like Marquez and Chicharito emerging over the years. The newest prospect is Hirving Lozano, and Thomas Harrison introduces us to him.
Who is Hirving Lozano?
I found myself asking this exact question in February last year when Lozano burst on to the scene in spectacular fashion during a match away to Club América. With the score tied at 0-0 with 7 minutes left, Pachuca manager Enrique Meza decided to throw on “Chucky”, an unknown 18 year-old, for his debut.
Just imagine this for a moment. You’re 18, making your debut at one of the world’s biggest stadiums, the Estadio Azteca, against one of Mexico’s biggest teams. Sound nerve-racking? Well Lozano had no fears. With América pushing for the winner, Lozano picked up possession on the half-way line, dribbled to the edge of the box before wrong-footing keeper Moi Munoz and nestling the ball into the back of the net. A star was born.
Talent Radar Accolades:
Part of a crop of young talent from Pachuca’s impressive youth academy, the attacking midfielder from Mexico City quickly established himself as a key first-team player for “Los Tuzos” after his sensational debut, scoring 11 times in 58 league games in his career so far. There has been huge excitement about this player ever since his debut in February 2014, with many regarding him as Mexico’s brightest young talent.
Style of Play, Strengths and Weaknesses
Playing on the left side of a 4-2-3-1 the vast majority of the time, right-footed Lozano has all the attributes of a classic inverted winger. Pace and dribbling are his main strengths, with Hirving able to take the ball past any defender in Mexico. Possessing great power in his right foot, he’s often dangerous when shooting after cutting in from the left-hand side. This shooting ability was shown in the 2015 CONCACAF U20 tournament when Lozano was top scorer with 5 goals in 5 games as Mexico lifted the trophy.
“Chucky” is equally adept at creating chances as well as scoring them, with a strong left-foot he’s able to deliver crosses after taking the ball down the line, although he elects to cut inside more often than choosing to go outside the opposition full-back. Lozano also has quite good creative vision, particularly for a 20 year-old.
For about a year after his debut, Lozano seemed to be getting better and better every game as he became a more intelligent player. However, performances stagnated during last season’s Clausura (2nd half of the season) and have regressed somewhat this season.
Perhaps a result of increasing arrogance, Chucky has become far too selfish and one-dimensional in recent matches. Too often he gets his head down, runs at the opposition, cuts inside and shoots, normally with disappointing outcomes. Previously one of the trickiest players in Mexico, defenders haven’t struggled to defend against Lozano as much this season.
Inconsistency, frequently a characteristic of young attackers, is another weakness of the young Mexican. Lozano’s been unable to turn occasional moments of magic into dominant, match-winning performances and often drifts in and out of matches if the ball isn’t regularly fed to him on the left-wing.
Pachuca’s summer signing of Rubén Botta has offered some interesting perspective on just how good Lozano is. The supremely talented Argentine playmaker, who failed to make it in Europe, has looked a more talented and intelligent footballer so far this season. Botta and Lozano are different players, and the Mexican’s superior physical skills might give him more of a chance of succeeding in Europe if he moves there in the future, but the fact that Botta wasn’t successful in Europe despite his ability shows how difficult it can be.
What Does the Future Hold?
Despite the recent stagnation in his development, Lozano has the potential to have a huge future and could become one of Mexico’s greatest players of all time. A move to Europe seems not far off.
In fact he could have moved this summer, with PSV offering Pachuca $7 million for the player, which was rejected. Lozano’s potential price tag could definitely hold back the 20 year-old from making the move to Europe. The financial muscle of Liga MX clubs, for example Pachuca are partly owned by the former richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, means prising top players from the division normally requires large sums of money. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pachuca demanded double what PSV offered. Paying around £10 million would be hugely risky considering Hirving hasn’t proven himself outside of Mexico and international youth tournaments.
Before thinking about Europe though, Chucky needs to get himself and his side Pachuca, who have just seven points from eight games this season, back on form. He did score a superb solo goal last weekend, smashing home at the near post after cutting in from the left-side, but he’s struggling to link up effectively with new signing Botta. If Lozano can get his head up more often Pachuca have a strong enough attack to score against any side in the league. Making the play-offs is still a possibility if “Los Tuzos” can find form, but there’s plenty of work to do.
Written by Thomas Harrison
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