Thomas Farines –
Ever since André-Pierre Gignac signed for Tigres UANL, Liga MX’s popularity has grown. Furthermore, Tigres have become the biggest and most feared club in the league leaving the grande like Club America in the dust. It was, therefore, no surprise when Club América announced their very own French addition on Friday with the signing of Jérémy Ménez from Antalyaspor.
With their very own French superstar on board, América hopes to match the Gignac effect at Monterrey based side Tigres UANL. Since signing Gignac, Tigres have won two league titles and more importantly have become an attractive club for foreign stars. America in rebuild under famous Mexican coach Miguel Herrera now attempts to emulate Tigres’ success. But the question is whether Ménez has the same sort of pedigree that Gignac had when he arrived.
Remember Gignac had just been the second-best scorer in France’s Ligue 1 when Tigres signed him from Olympique Marseille in 2015. Targeted by several clubs around Europe Gignac, in fact, was in his prime a top forward that could have gone anywhere and him signing for Mexico was a big deal, and still is up to this day, in the country.
The story of Jérémy Ménez is a bit different, however. While always a promising forward the signing from Antalyaspor never fulfilled his promise and, in fact, is part of a lost golden generation in French football.
Back in 2004 Ménez was Part of a Golden Generation
Back in May 2004, France hosted the U-17 European Championship, which brought about one of France’s most rated generations: the 1987 generation. Players such as Karim Benzema, Hatem Ben Arfa, Samir Nasri or Ahmed Yahiouhi were regarded by observers and journalists as amongst the highest potentials in the years to come. Fast forward to 2017, besides Karim Benzema, who has achieved significant success at the club level with Real Madrid, most of his teammates in that tournament did not meet the expectations and did not manage to withstand the pressure that comes with it, that were put onto them.
Some players of the French U-17 national team of 2004 became the first choice in their respective clubs quite early, for example, Nasri at Marseille, Ben Arfa and Benzema at Lyon or the youngest ever professional player in French football, Jérémy Ménez for Sochaux. Although an overview of their respective career and success (or failure) might be of interest to the reader, today we are focusing on América de Mexico’s new signing Jérémy Ménez.
Highly rated by the likes of Alex Ferguson, who allegedly tried to sign him back in 2004—Ménez even visited the team’s training facilities in Carrington. Ménéz, however, never entirely fulfilled his potential. Since his debut for les lionceaux back in 2004, Menez has played for seven different clubs before signing for the Mexican giants America.
After playing his two first seasons for Sochaux, Ménéz was reportedly on the books of Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain but went on to move to the south of France and played his trade for Monaco. The expectations from French media regarding one of their most regarded talents were high, and Ménéz failed to meet them in the two seasons he played for Monaco.
Form and Injuries Prevented a Greater Career
The forward failed to achieve a regular spot on the manager’s first choice team due to his lack of form and injuries. Both seem to define Ménéz’s career a lack of consistency in his appearances at club and international level. Ménéz career has seen him move to Roma where he was publicly criticised by his coach Claudio Ranieri and his teammates for not showing enough commitment followed by a move to his boyhood club, Paris Saint Germain.
At PSG he won his first medals at the professional level when he won the Ligue 1 in 2013 and 2014. But despite the two titles at PSG he failed to impress and left the journalist and fans with a feeling that said: “we know he could do better.”
The same was the case when he moved on to Milan. Scoring 18 goals in 43 games Milan have been a minefield of political intrigue, failed rebuilds and mindless rebuilds since the club last won the Serie A in 2011. It was a challenging environment to succeed, especially for a player, who is not always considered easy to handle.
What followed was a short stint with Girondins Bordeaux during the 2016-17 season and then Antalyaspor since last summer. The Turkish club brought in Ménéz under the typical promises made by high flying ownership groups of Süper Lig clubs. In the end what was left was 17 points after 17 games and a relegation battle that will likely continue until the end of the season.
Fighting for survival in the Turkish Süper Lig will, however, no longer be Ménéz’s concern. The French striker is now joining the rebuild at Club América. The Mexican record champion, and depending on who you ask, the most famous club in the country finished the Apertura in third-place but was eliminated in the Liguilla during the semi-final stage by eventual champion Tigres (1-0 and 4-0).
América Lack Attacking Power
Although no-one expected Club América to win the title this season, there was certainly an understanding that the club lacked goalscoring. América’s goalscoring record in the last nine games (including games in the Liguilla) was two goals in nine games. A poor record for a side that once possessed the most potent attacking team in Latin America.
Ever since Argentine striker Darío Benedetto left the club for Boca Juniors in 2016 Club América have lacked a top striker. By signing Ménez head coach Herrera hopes that he has addressed the issue and that América can keep pace with the two super clubs Monterrey and Tigres. Gignac’s signing certainly shows that top European talent can do well in the league. But as outlined above it would be a mistake to compare the two forwards.
Herrera is therefore left with a project. Ménez can fix América’s problems. But can Mexico bring the best out of Ménéz? Only time can tell whether that is the case.
Thomas holds an MA in Middle Eastern Politics at King’s College London and currently works in Greece as a project leader for Aniko. His MA research is on the relationship between football and politics in Beirut. Thomas’ career led him to several opportunities in sports in general, having worked for the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace and in the football industry in London. Born in Toulouse, Thomas has lived most of his life between Florianopolis (Brazil), Toulouse and London and Thessaloniki which helped him develop some language skills. Thomas firmly believes in the power of football as a tool for social development. Follow Thomas on Twitter @thomasfarines