The relations between the Netherlands and Mexico are historically warm, but in the football world that assumption might be questioned, as the controversial 2014 World Cup clash between the two created a one sided animosity that can still be felt - the Dutch aren’t really popular in Mexico, to say the least. In club football, Mexican players are a hot commodity in Holland, as they can showcase their talents in the local league. But what about Dutch players coming to Mexico? Looking back, this has barely happened, and now we can get a glimpse of it.
One can argue that the Mexican league is the best in the Americas, for many reasons: For instance, it is ranked 4th in the world in average attendance during league games. Additionally, the average Mexican football supporter enjoys watching many international players from all over the continent. Those players arrive to find better salaries, and their arrival adds quality to the league.
On the contrary to South American players, Europeans rarely come to play in Mexico. From time to time, there are interesting exceptions. Frenchman Andre-Pierre Gignac surprised the entire world when he decided to move to Tigres UANL during his prime, and after representing France in the home European Championship in 2016. He meanwhile became a legend for the Nuevo Leon team and their best goal scorer in history, but he is still a rare case.
This week, we had one of these surprising transfers. Tigres’ arch-rival, Rayados de Monterrey have cashed out their saving account and singed former Holland’s former national team striker, Vincent Janssen, that arrived for a club breaking transfer record from Tottenham Hotspur. It wasn’t easy, and it took a lot of convincing efforts from Monterrey to talk him into arriving in Mexico. Former Chivas Guadalajara coach, Dutchman Hans Westerhof, was part of this effort, and after some more incentives, Janssen decided to start a new chapter in north Mexico.
Monterrey is a very attacking-minded team. Not only today but historically as well. The club had many great strikers in the past. Humberto “Chupete” Suazo, the former Chilean international is the team’s historic all-time leading goal scorer of the club is, of course, the most legendary name in the list, but not the only one. Former Mexican internationals like Aldo de Nigris and Guillermo Franco, and Brazilian Mario de Souza, to name a few. However, it does not only refer to the history of the club. Current striker, Argentinian Rogelio Funes Mori, one of the best strikers in the league and already ranks third in the all-time scorers of Monterrey. Janssen is arriving at a place that supports players of his type.
Janssen is only 25, but his career could be considered as one of a veteran player. A son of an Olympic athlete, Janssen has started his youth career in Top Oss & NEC Nijmegen before moving to Feyenoord. For some reason, the Rotterdam giants didn’t appreciate him, so he moved to play in the 2nd tier team Almere City. Two good seasons there were enough for powerhouse AZ Alkmaar to sign him up. The season in AZ was the best season of his life, and ended with the Eredivisie top scorer award, as he amassed a total of 27 goals and won the most talented player award in the Netherlands. It was such a good season that he also earned the call up to the Netherlands national team. Moreover, perhaps the best recognition a Dutch striker can receive: Some titled him as “The new Ruud van Nistelrooy”. A move to a big club was a matter of time, and during the summer of 2016, Tottenham was the team to pick him up.
Looking back, Janssen in not the next Van Nistelrooy, and the English league was a bit above his abilities. He was loaned in 2017 to Turkish side Fenerbahçe and even started well, but then an injury finished his cycle there. Janssen got to play once more for Tottenham, but it was clear that he needs to leave and find a new challenge. Now, Janssen can revive his career in Monterrey. With only 25 years of age, he has a decade of football left in him. The league in Mexico is more open and less intense than the Premier League and can be compared to the level in the Netherlands, where Janssen already proved himself in the past. He might be such a success that he could find himself back in Europe. Alternatively, even better: become the Dutch version of Gignac.