As soon as France lifted the World Cup to the sky, silly season went into overdrive.
Some of the brightest sparks in Russia have been linked to big moves and in a series of daily features, we reflect on their time at the tournament – and which teams should be poking around for their services.
Today it’s Mexico and PSV flyer Hirving Lozano.
WORLD CUP OVERVIEW
Mexico’s time in Russia was brief brilliance. El Tri precipitated Germany’s downfall with a shocking yet fully deserved victory in their opener.
South Korea were next to fall to the Mexican sword and Lozano was the sharpest edge of the blade. The sight of those green shirts in full flow, with the 22-year-old situated on the left, was one of the best on the box over the last four weeks.
A horror show against Sweden, however, meant a fateful meeting with Brazil in the last-16, and though El Tri edged possession and showed plenty of adventure in peppering Alisson’s goal (although they mustered only one effort on target), Lozano and Co could not cope when Neymar came out of hiding.
5 – Hirving Lozano has completed five dribbles (7 attempted) in the first half against Brazil, more than any other player on the pitch. Magician. pic.twitter.com/p46jFqRNoF— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) July 2, 2018
RATINGS FROM THE ARCHIVE
Mexico 1 Germany 0
8 – Coming in with the hype of being his team’s next big star, Lozano delivered. He was a constant threat on the counter and finished off one of those moves superbly.
Mexico 2 South Korea 1
7 – Always a threat going forward, weaving his way past defenders, but was impressive defensively as well. Got back quickly and threw himself in front of a shot from Lee Yong. Was fouled repeatedly and had a few attempts at goal.
Mexico 0 Sweden 3
6 – Had his moments when scything in from the left wing but did not light up the game in the same manner as his first two outings at the World Cup.
Round of 16
Mexico 0 Brazil 2
7 – Had an early shot blocked and was a constant threat down the flank, also working hard off the ball.
WORLD CUP IN NUMBERS
Interestingly, Lozano did not try a single cross at the World Cup. His task was to run at defenders on the inside and link up with Javier Hernandez through the air rather than by ground on his favoured right foot.
That’s not purely the case at PSV. Lozano beats many full-backs on the touchline by virtue of sheer pace in a league that cannot be counted among the upper echelons of Europe.
He also married goal-getting and an artist’s touch to the tune of 17 strikes and eight assists, in his first season in Europe no less after leaving Pachuca.
Confidence – Self-belief hummed through Mexico – even if it didn’t go entirely to plan all the time – and Lozano radiated that confidence throughout.
He took on 23 dribbles, tried 13 shots, and in the four matches was only dispossessed seven times. Take into account that the wing wizard was up against Brazil and Germany, rather than Eredivisie fodder, and he’s passed another huge marker in his fledgling career.
Strength – of both competition and his physicality. The former has clearly been answered somewhat with bright and fearless showings in Russia, but for every Luis Suarez that emerges from the Dutch hinterlands there is a Mateja Kezman. Regardless – there’s a lot to like what about he did for Mexico.
Then there is Tottenham, who often suffer from a dearth of pace in forward positions, and chairman Daniel Levy could decide that investing some €50 in Lozano stocks is shrewd business.
If Hazard leaves Chelsea for Real Madrid, however – and it’s certainly a possibility – then new man Maurizio Sarri may covet Lozano.
While at Napoli, Sarri played a 4-3-3 comprising a front line small in stature but quick, fluid and extremely versatile in Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne.
If he carries over his winger-reliant system – the full-backs such as Marcos Alonso should relish his encouragement of overlapping too – then Lozano, who has an appetite for work, is a seamless fit.
Faced with the choice no doubt the Italian will strive to keep Hazard. It may not all be doom and gloom for Chelsea if they pick up Lozano and a lot of change for him, though.
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