In the CONCACAF region, Mexico is the dominant force known for its rich football culture and producing top quality players. Mexico boast legends of the game such as Hugo Sanchez, Cuatemoc Blanco, Rafael Marquez, Jorge Campos, Alberto Garcia Aspe and Claudio Sanchez all of whom represented El Tri with great pride, honour and dignity.
However in today's modern game, El Tri boasts several stars but the man with all the right credentials and attributes to lead them to higher heights is FC Porto midfielder Hector Herrera.
Nicknamed 'Zorro' since his early days, Herrera started his career at Mexican club Pachuca where he came through the ranks of their youth set-up and advanced into the first team in 2011. The 24 year old made his debut in a 4-1 defeat to Santos Laguna in July of 2011 and went on to make 14 appearances throughout the season for Pachuca. His impressive performances lead him to being awarded the Golden Ball as the Rookie of the 2011 Apertura tournament.
So impressive was his performances in his debut season he was named on Mexico's squad for the 2012 Toulon Tournament. Zorro was instrumental to Mexico's success in the tournament and for his excellent performances he was awarded the Meilleur Joueur as the Outstanding Player of the Tournament.
He then carried his rich form into the 2012 Olympics where he would contribute significantly in El Tri's march to the gold medal defeating Brazil in the final. The 6ft midfielder was one of the players of the tournament and he caught the eye of several top clubs across Europe.
There was a strong interest from Manchester United in particular with Pachuca's sporting director Andres Fassi reporting that the English giants requested permission to have talks with the player. There was also reported interest from Liverpool, Arsenal, Valencia, AC Milan and Ajax.
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Despite the strong interest, Pachuca managed to hold onto their star asset and he moved to Porto in the summer of 2013 for a reported fee of about €8M. It was perhaps a great move by his representatives giving him more time to grow and learn his trade more before moving abroad. Porto was also a great choice as he would be able to see a lot of minutes on the pitch in order to adapt to his new surrounding as well as to develop his talent, skills and his game.
Herrera seemed to be enjoying life in Portugal and he has been brilliant for Porto. His development and progress was certainly on display at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where his stocks rose considerably. Despite being in a group with the stars of Brazil and Croatia in the midfield department, Herrera was arguably the best midfielder from their group and his performances got better and better with each game.
Hector Herrera is an all-action central midfielder who can do everything that can be asked of a modern-day player. He is first and foremost a great athlete that is a wonderful attribute to have with the way the game is played today. He has a fantastic stamina as he covers the ground from box-to-box effortlessly, eating up every blade of grass on the pitch. He is capable of sitting in front of the defence providing a shield, very hard in a tackle and expertly halting the progress of opposition players in midfield.
However he is equally adept on the ball going forward and has an eye for goal. He has great technical qualities, good vision and his distribution of the ball is top class. He is also comfortable on the ball and has the ability to get past players in midfield with his pace and power as well as providing a final pass with great accuracy and quality. At 6 ft he has a good physical presence in the middle of the pitch and relishes a physical battle because he is never afraid to get stuck-in.
With all these attributes as a pure modern-day player, the Porto man is a natural leader and it reflects on how he organizes the team and the way his teammates respond to him particularly in the national team. El Tri manager Miguel Herrera has placed a lot of responsibilities on his shoulders and seems to have tremendous faith and trust in his star midfielder.
This is perhaps the one quality (leadership) he possesses that places him above all the other stars in the national team. He is the man that makes Mexico and Porto tick as everything goes through him and his leadership on the pitch as well as the respect he has got from the people around him makes him the man Mexico can build their team around.
Miguel Herrera has an excellent crop to choose from at the moment with Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Moreno, Diego Reyes, Miguel Layun, Jose Juan Vazquez, Andres Guardado, Jonathan dos Santos, Giovanni dos Santos, Javier Hernandez and Calos Vela all at the good age but still has quite a few years ahead of them. Mexico has been brilliant in youth tournaments in recent times and their investment in youth is now paying dividends.
However the man called Zorro is the one player who stands out as key piece of the puzzle. This is not just because of his talent, ability and potential to become one of the greatest ever Mexican players, but his leadership and intelligence in the middle of the park. He is certainly the best midfielder Mexico has had since Garcia Aspe and if he stays healthy and continue to work hard then he may surpass the legendary midfielder.
He may be plying his trade in Portugal for now but if he continues in the same vane then its just a matter of time before he moves to one of the top clubs in England, Spain, Germany or Italy. He will be ideal for any of those leagues because of how gifted he is, being a natural athlete and someone who is comfortable playing in tight spaces and relishes the physical aspect of our beautiful game.
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