Manuel Veth –
It is an excellent time to be Hirving Lozano. The Mexican attacking midfielder finally completed his move to Europe this summer joining the Dutch Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven. Initially, it was understood that Lozano would join Celta de Vigo with whom Pachuca, the club Lozano played for in Mexico, have a development deal.
Spain, however, significantly differs from Liga MX in style of play and Hirving Lozano believed that a move to a more attacking minded competition would serf him better. Hence, when PSV Eindhoven came knocking Lozano jumped on a potential deal. Given Hirving Lozano’s talent and the level of football, Liga MX represents these days it is somewhat of a surprise that not more European clubs have shown their interest in the winger. For some odd reason Liga MX is still somewhat viewed as an oddity by many Europeans scouts, who have overlooked what could very well be the best league outside of Europe at the moment.
The financial shortcomings of Dutch football in the meantime means that the Eredivisie clubs have to think outside the box and it is therefore not a massive surprise that PSV’s scouts recommended signing Hirving Lozano from what is still deemed an exotic league. Dutch football in general and PSV Eindhoven, in particular, has been a great jumping off point for young and talented players from Latin America. The Dutch club was also the first European club for Brazilian strikers Romario and Ronaldo.
Romario played in the Netherlands from 1988 to 1993 and scored 98 goals in 109 games Boeren. The Eredivisie then became the jumping off point for a world career that would see Romario play for FC Barcelona, Flamengo and Valencia. The Brazilian striker also won the World Cup with his country in 1994. Baixinho, the short one, was a world class striker and aside from winning the World cup also won three Dutch championships the La Liga and two Copa América titles.
In a deal that was worth by some accounts £2 million, Romario laid the foundation for PSV Eindhoven to attract the next Brazilian sensation in 1994. Although he did not play a single minute, Ronaldo was part of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup winning squad. Ronaldo had taken Brazil by storm during the 1993 season when he scored five goals in a game against Bahia. Overall Ronaldo would score 44 goals in 47 games with Cruzeiro that year leading them to the 1993 Copa do Brasil and the Minas Gerais State Championship in 1994.
Ronaldo then received offers from around the world, but Romario told him that Dutch football and PSV Eindhoven, in particular, would be the perfect next step in his career. Ronaldo would later tell the press that Romario had told him: “PSV is one of the most professional and best-organised clubs in Europe. He said it would be best to acclimatise in Europe and learn about European football. I think he is right.”
PSV Eindhoven would pay $5 million to beat out the likes of Ajax, Juventus and AC Milan to secure his signature. Like Romario before him, Ronaldo dominated the Dutch Eredivisie scoring 42 goals in 46 games and earning himself a move to Barcelona for the then record price of $19.5 million. Later called O Fenômeno (the phenomenon) Ronaldo won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1997 with Barcelona, the UEFA Cup with Inter Milan in 1998, La Liga in 2003 and 2007 with Real Madrid and the World Cup with Brazil in 2002.
The Success of Romario and Ronaldo Paved the Way for Other Latin Americans
For PSV the success of Romario and Ronaldo, of course, meant that the club remained high on the radar for players from Latin America, who wanted to make their mark in European football. But the financial landscape was changing in the late 1990s. Bosman, the introduction of the Champions League and massive television deals in the big European countries meant that Dutch football struggled to keep up. Ajax was the last Dutch team to win the Champions League in 1995, and ten years later PSV Eindhoven became the last Dutch team to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League when AC Milan eliminated them.
The decline of Dutch club football also has had an impact on the national team. Oranje finished second and third at the 2010 and 2014 World Cup, but now in retrospect, those two World Cups could be seen as a swan song of Dutch football. Last week Netherlands missed their second international tournament in a row showing that the country is in need of a major overhaul.
There is a silver lining. However, Ajax Amsterdam reached the final of the Europa League under Peter Bosz last season. A young and talented side the team fielded many talented players from South America including David Neres and Davinson Sanchez, who was sold to Tottenham last summer. Both players highlight that Dutch football is still an exciting proposition for young talented players from the Americas when it comes to making their first steps in Europe.
Since the success of Ronaldo and Romario PSV Eindhoven was the stepping stone for talented South Americans like Alex and Jefferson Farfan. More importantly for a player like Hirving Lozano Mexican national team players Andrés Guardado, Héctor Moreno and Francisco Javier Rodríguez also had some spells in Eindhoven.
With this history in mind, PSV had good cards when it came to convincing Hirving Lozano to join the Eredivisie club. The problem was though that Eindhoven currently do not have the financial power of a La Liga side and therefore had to come up with some creative financing to complete the deal. Hence, when they negotiated with Pachuca PSV promised that the Liga MX side would receive 50% of any future transfer.
Hirving Lozano had an Instant Impact on Dutch Football
At the time nobody expected that Lozano would have an instant impact on the Eredivisie. In six games Lozano has already scored six goals and six assists and has been by many accounts the best player in the Netherlands. Explosive and fast Lozano is a mix of an aggressive winger and forward.
Adaptable the Mexican can play all three positions up front but prefers to play on the left-wing where he can use his powerful right foot to cut inside and score. His shot is one of his primary attributes, and when he goes into a dribbling, he is almost impossible to defend against. Another quality is his ability to cross over to the other wing from where he can cross into the box. It is the multi-dimensional play that has made him a big hit in the Netherlands.
Most importantly for him, Dutch football has given him exposure to European football. Liga MX is currently one of the best leagues in the world. But removed from European competitions scouts are often overlooked Liga MX. It is for that reason that no major clubs came asking for his services in the summer. But now being exposed to European scouts a move to a big league could come sooner rather than later.
Arsenal has been one of the first clubs to scout Lozano. The London based club are looking for a replacement for Alexis Sanchez, who is likely going to leave the club for Manchester City shortly. Valued €10 million by transfermarkt.de it is understood that clubs would have to pay €34 million to gain his services now. Arsenal, of course, would not be the only club vying for his services as Bayern, for example, are also looking for a significant rebuild next summer.
Either way, Lozano’s move to PSV has already been successful, and it will be only a matter of time until the Mexican walks into the footsteps of Romario and Ronaldo becoming the next Latin American, who made it big in Europe thanks to time spent in the Eredivisie.
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.