Few players in the Mexican game have as promising a future as Erick Gutierrez.
Although there is a long list of young, talented Mexican players that many can name, there is something different about the 23-year-old midfielder. Unlike other stars in the making, Gutierrez has a noteworthy amount of reliability, leadership and maturity for a player his age; he moves with the ease and confidence of a seasoned veteran. With such traits, it came as no surprise on Wednesday when PSV Eindhoven announced that the club was set to sign the Pachuca captain.
If anything, many within the Mexican soccer community wondered why it had taken so long.
Since making his league debut in October of 2013, Gutierrez quickly established himself as one of the more intriguing Liga MX prospects. Blessed with a well-rounded style of play and an eye for accurate distribution, a move to Europe appeared imminent. And yet, once the start of the 2018 Apertura rolled around, Gutierrez found himself still donning a Pachuca jersey.
Granted, he had a key role as a young captain, but it remained clear in recent weeks that the player had already outgrown the league. Perhaps inspired to showcase his abilities before the end of the transfer window, Gutierrez stepped up with some of his best performances for Los Tuzos in his last three Liga MX games. Not only did he find the back of the net twice in this run, but he also found a return to the Mexican national team when the latest roster call-up was announced on Wednesday.
Shortly after the El Tri announcement came the news regarding PSV, delivered to him by his close friend and former Pachuca teammate Hirving Lozano. Immediately after a qualification to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, and therefore given more room to spend some cash, the Dutch club quickly made the move to incorporate another Mexican into its roster.
Although it's now tempting to think of how Lozano can help the career of Gutierrez abroad, it is perhaps more appropriate to switch these roles when you look at their past.
In their early Pachuca days, Gutierrez was known to stand up for Lozano when the player would quarrel with teammates and staff. Eventually, the two developed a strong friendship as each found a place within Pachuca's senior squad. While Lozano was more of a free-roaming winger for Los Tuzos, Gutierrez was more of a calm midfield presence that regularly provided clever passes going forward.
Keeping in mind that Lozano has already had a brilliant start to his season with PSV, it's enticing to think of how much more effective the winger will be with Gutierrez in support. It might take some time for the newcomer to adjust, but the former Pachuca captain will likely be expected to find a key role in the heart of his new club's starting XI.
Luckily for the midfielder, the leap from Liga MX to the Eredivisie is manageable, as opposed to trying to find a place within a major European team in England or Spain. Gutierrez shouldn't have too many issues with his transition into PSV. Assuming that he maintains his form, it wouldn't be much of a shock if the player soon garners the same kind of reverence that Lozano has amassed abroad.
Eredivisie matches aside, Gutierrez (and Lozano) will also have a daunting yet enticing opportunity once the Champions League group stage kicks off in mid-September. After Thursday's draw, the two Mexicans will be left with the unenviable task of facing European giants Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan in Group B. A true trial by fire for budding talents from Pachuca. On the biggest stage of club soccer, the chance to make a name for themselves will be invaluable for the two players who are a vital part of the future of the Mexican team.
As for Gutierrez, the mature and well-rounded midfielder will finally get his long-awaited chance to shine in Europe. Whether it be in a high-profile Champions League clash or an Eredivisie match on the weekend, he should prove to be a fascinating talent to follow.