40. Hirving Lozano
In the past few years, C.F. Pachuca has built a project that has left its mark on Mexican football. Prioritizing footballing education in youth development has allowed Los Tuzos to create one of the best academies in the Americas, while also reaping the rewards in the first team-among them, several national and international trophies.
Pachuca’s work in developing its academy has been praised throughout Mexico, mostly for its off-the-pitch emphasis; it makes great people as well as great footballers. Pachuca has produced the likes of Carlos Peña y Héctor Herrera, both of whom were good enough to make the move across the pond, while the likes of Rodolfo Pizarro and Paul Aguilar have made their mark on Liga MX.
The latest talent to graduate from Pachuca’s academy is Hirving Lozano, who, at just 22 years of age, moved to PSV Eindhoven this summer. Born in Mexico City, Lozano joined the Tuzo academy at 11, and made his way through all of the youth tiers before Gabriel Caballero called him up for the first team.
Lozano made his professional debut on February 8, 2014 in the Estadio Azteca, replacing Jürgen Damm at 84’, with Enrique Meza giving the then-18-year-old Lozano an opportunity against one of Mexico’s giants, Club América. Five minutes after stepping on the pitch, he scored his first goal after a ferocious dribble from the right wing, handing Pachuca a 1-0 win. Since then, “Chucky” became a popular sight for La Cuna del Fútbol, eventually winning a starting spot.
In the 2014 Torneo Clausura, Pachuca finished as runner-ups, where Hirving, along with other young talents, was key in getting them to the final, earning himself the reputation as Mexico’s next great forward.
The seasons passed, and Hirving continued to stand out as Liga MX’s premier talent. Each transfer window, journalists linked him with European clubs, including Manchester United on occasion, but he did not leave Pachuca until he was ready. Lozano knew he could only leave to a club where he would be a guaranteed starter, where he would develop his skillset and fulfill his promise; for this reason, a Premier League move never materialized.
So, after standing out with El Tri’s U-23 and senior team, winning titles with Pachuca, and captivating an entire country with his stunning dribbling, he left this summer for the Eredivisie. In Holland, Lozano must polish off his various defects, from his decision making, his reading of the game, and his creativity. He has put himself in the right environment, and with guaranteed playing time, he will be able to grow into a top-tier footballer capable of shining in European nights.
In his final season with Pachuca, I saw a mature footballer; no longer the evergreen child, this is a star in the making who would have stagnated had he stayed in Mexico for just a second longer. Hirving Lozano was a key figure for Pachuca, winning MOTM after MOTM, making his presence felt week after week, and no defender knew how to stop him besides fouling him.
Hirving Lozano has a litany of devastating qualities, from his link-up play to his agility, to his quickness. When playing on the left, he cuts inside, but on the right, he stretches his opposing left back the full length of the pitch, an inverted and a natural winger rolled into one.
Whichever wing he plays on, he is a speed demon who constantly creates danger, but he still has various aspects to improve, from his decision-making to his shooting accuracy, to his personality. In his debut in Holland, Lozano scored a goal and threatened from the left, yet left much to be desired; he could have scored far more if he was more clinical. When the best decision was to pass to a teammate, he decided to shoot when he didn’t even feel comfortable doing so.
The biggest issue I see with Hirving is his character. In Mexico, he was constantly fouled, and thus Hirving gained a vengeful attitude; when they hit him, he concentrates on giving the opponents a taste of their own medicine, rather than letting it go. In Holland, he must change this, as he lost his head too often in Mexico, costing his team points.
I think that Hirving Lozano will polish off some of his flaws at PSV, and that he will grow footballistically and personally, and that he will become one of the greatest Mexican footballers Europe has ever seen. The potential that this young crack has is enormous, but it will all depend on if he wishes to fulfill the expectations that Mexico’s rank-and-file have placed in him.
By: Antonio González/@AGA26A. Translated by Zach Lowy/@ZCalcio