Manuel Veth –
On the eve of the Major League Soccer draft, Vancouver Whitecaps have signed Mexican right-back Efraín Juárez from Liga MX giants Monterrey. Once considered one of the brightest prospects in world football the 29-year-old Efraín Juárez has agreed on a contract through 2019, with a club option for 2020.
Juárez will occupy an international roster spot and will join the club pending the receipt of an International Transfer Certificate (ITC), work permit, visa and medical examination. Vancouver used Targeted Allocation Money to land the Monterrey right-back.
Carl Robinson showed his excitement of having signed the former Mexican national team player. “We are excited to add Efraín to our group. He is an extremely talented player, who has experience at the highest level, can play multiple positions and fits the character type we want at our club. We firmly believe in Efraín’s technical ability, grit and leadership qualities and we look forward to seeing him with our group.”
Efraín Juárez comes with plenty of experience
Having played 274 professional games in Liga MX, the Scottish Premiership and La Liga, with Monterrey, Pumas, Club América, Celtic and Real Zaragoza Efraín Juárez certainly brings plenty of experience to the Vancouver Whitecaps. He has also played 39 times for Mexico’s national team, featured at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, won the CONCACAF Gold Cup twice and the 2005 U-17 FIFA World Cup.
There is, however, also a caveat. Those who follow the Mexican game closely will often argue that the U-17 FIFA World Cup was the high point of his career and that the generation that won this particular tournament never fully lived up to expectations.
It is perhaps a fair criticism. The side that beat Brazil 3-0 in the final that year also included Carlos Vela, Giovani dos Santos, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Hector Moreno. All these players had good careers, and Chicharito, in particular, has become a worldwide recognised figure. At the same time, that generation failed to indeed live up to the hype with not a single player achieving true world-class status despite the limitless talent available.
For Efraín Juarez, like his teammate Giovani dos Santos, the U-17 FIFA World Cup was supposed to become the jumping off point for a world career. Both joined FC Barcelona’s youth academy following the tournament, but neither would ever feature with the first squad.
Perhaps the writing was already on the wall at this point. Already at this point, one of the leading issues was the lack of a true position for Efraín Juárez. It is a mute point that has followed him to the present day, Vancouver, for example, have listed him as a midfielder, a position that he has not played for any club in a long time.
Efraín Juárez – What is his best position?
It is true that at one point Juárez was listed as a defensive midfielder. In recent years, however, he has almost exclusively operated as a right-back. The page transfermarkt.de points out on their heat map that he has played the vast majority of his games either as a right-back or as a left-back. Robinson, however, is certainly right that Efraín Juárez could be used in a variety of roles. The problem with this, however, is that other teams and coaches have tried Juárez in alternative roles without getting the best out of the player.
The question, therefore, is whether Vancouver are getting a player that can fill the hole in midfield? The answer is maybe. We have seen in the past that experienced players are capable of making the switch to the holding midfield role—the most prominent example would be Bayern München’s Philipp Lahm.
Juárez certainly comes with the sort of experience and Ollie Duxbury, an analyst with Football Radar and Liga MX specialist for the Futbolgrad Network, points out that Juárez “is a solid enough right back, quite versatile, can play centre, left-back, right and centre mid.” Duxbury further adds: “He was let go by Monterrey as they have better options. I feel he is an upgrade on what Vancouver have though.”
Speaking with Duxbury though he is quick to point out that he sees that upgrade only in the back four. There Efraín Juárez is the most effective. He can therefore not be seen as a replacement for either Nosa Igiebor or the injured Matías Laba, who is currently without a contract, who are both central midfielders and are no longer with the club.
With this in mind Efraín Juárez will be an exciting acquisition to the Vancouver Whitecaps, and certainly be capable of strengthening the Whitecaps’ backline. Whether he can be the acquisition in midfield that the club needs remains to be seen, however.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.