Vargas to Tigres: How the Chilean's arrival changes Liga MX, CONCACAF
Tigres fans shouldn’t worry about their team’s dull start to the 2017 Clausura.
Despite the fact that Los Auriazules only have one win in their first four matches, there is a new addition to the attacking arsenal, one that should be able to conjure some goals. Former Napoli, Valencia and, as of last week, Hoffenheim attacker Eduardo Vargas is the latest big name to Nuevo Leon.
Liga MX: Weeks 1-3
During the past few years, the Chilean has bounced around clubs in Europe and South America, but with this high-profile move, he's now setting his sights on Liga MX. Following a short-lived stint from another lauded Tigres’ capture, Andy Delort, who recently made the move back to France with Toulouse, Los Auriazules pounced on the opportunity to sign Vargas last Friday.
While some might remember the 27-year-old for his flashes of brilliance for his clubs, many others, especially Mexican national team fans, will begrudgingly recognize the attacking talents that helped blast four goals for Vargas past Mexico at last summer's Copa America Centenario.
Now, seven months after the infamous 7-0 win for La Roja over El Tri, Vargas has joined Tigres for the Clausura. After dominating some of Mexico’s best last year, it’s safe to say that the striker will be confident in his first Liga MX season.
But the impact of the Chilean's arrival could extend far beyond Mexico. If Vargas can replicate the danger he showed at Copa, his influence could reverberate across the CONCACAF region.
Keeping up with Los Auriazules
Before Vargas’ move to Liga MX, Tigres were arguably the most talented team in Mexico. With names like Andre-Pierre Gignac, Ismael Sosa, Jurgen Damm and Javier Aquino, it’s no surprise that the Monterrey club won the Apertura.
Mix in Vargas and it’s scary to think of what the squad can accomplish.
At the least, another league championship is expected from the current title-holders. The team has plenty of time to finish in a playoff-worthy position, and once in the Liguilla, you will seldom find a supporter who would confidently bet against Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti's side.
The coach, who has won three league titles with Tigres since 2011, has been given what many other Liga MX managers rarely receive: Time.
Fans from every other club in the league, including those who root for the “big four,” are now left envious of Tigres setup, which is starting to feel like Mexico’s version of Real Madrid
Unlike most other clubs that nonchalantly drop a coach or two every year, Ferretti has been allowed space to develop a character and identity with his roster. With significant spending that has been able to boost depth, Tigres are now the new undisputed giants of the league.
Although Los Auriazules aren’t seen as one of the traditional “big four” teams in the country -- which include Chivas, America, Pumas and Cruz Azul -- Tigres’ recent success and stacked lineup are making many Liga MX supporters second guess their status.
Fans from every other club in the league, including those who root for the “big four,” are now left envious of Tigres setup, which is starting to feel like Mexico’s version of Real Madrid. Ferretti’s men are the favorites in nearly every match, and despite the team’s lackadaisical start, no other Liga MX side will dare take them lightly.
With a willingness to bring in gifted options like Vargas, Tigres are raising the bar for Mexican clubs.
Potential dominance outside of Liga MX
On February 22, Tigres will resume their chase for a CONCACAF Champions League title when they face off against Pumas in the quarterfinals. Recognizing the addition of Vargas, and Los Auriazules’ immense depth, Tigres seem like the current favorites to claim the 2016-2017 title.
If Ferretti is able to claim Champions League, Los Auriazules would then qualify for this year’s Club World Cup. In a tournament which Mexican teams have never been able to break into the final, Tigres star-studded roster would have a decent chance of raising the bar in another realm.
It’s presumptuous to assume that the Liga MX club would be able to garner a win over a titan like Barcelona or Real Madrid, but Tigres' depth in attack gives the team team a puncher's chance, one Mexican clubs have rarely had before.
Looking ahead to the 2017-18 edition of the Champions League, Los Auriazules already have a spot guaranteed, which will then provide a perfect opportunity to compare the standard of the Mexican club to that of its competition north of the border.
Although the argument could be made that MLS sides have been given a disadvantage in the tournament due to scheduling, in the next competition, the playing field will be close to level. A modified schedule avoids overlapping two MLS seasons, meaning the next Champions League could be a much-improved barometer for the two most prominent leagues in the region.
However, given the rate of growth of Los Auriazules, it wouldn’t be a shock if the organization picks up another massive player or two before next year. At that point, it might take much more than a Sebastian Giovinco, Jordan Morris or Michael Bradley to get past Tigres and their new Chilean star.
What’s next for Vargas and Los Auriazules?
Before Tigres can begin dreaming about Liga MX, Champions League or Club World Cup success, the giants will first need to take charge in the current Clausura.
Despite the fact that the team's extremely likely to find a way into the playoffs, it’s still difficult to overlook the recent 1-0 loss to Chiapas, a team that's currently one of the leading candidates for relegation.
As for Vargas, there is also the problem of finding a spot in the starting XI for him. With Gignac, Aquino, Damm and Sosa leading the frontline, the Chilean will have a daunting task of pushing one of those names onto the bench. That said, it’s clear that there is interest for Damm from Europe, which could leave things less crowded in the future.
Either way, the roster headache Ferretti will have is one that many coaches would wish upon themselves, but it also leaves a question that could shape the region's soccer: With the acquisition of Vargas, will any Liga MX or CONCACAF clubs be able to keep up?