Pachuca hope strong organizational model yields results at Club World Cup
Pachuca is in the United Arab Emirates at present, preparing to open its FIFA Club World Cup campaign on Saturday against Wydad Casablanca of Morocco. Los Tuzos represent not only the CONCACAF region and Liga MX, but also a club model that is arguably the most developed in the confederation.
Pachuca's ownership boasts its own university, as well as two Liga MX teams (Pachuca and Leon), one second-division team (Mineros de Zacatecas), a club in Chile's first division (Everton de Vina del Mar) and Talleres de Cordoba, who are doing well in Argentina's top league.
The youth facilities at Pachuca are the envy of even some good-level European clubs and the likes of Hector Herrera (Porto) and Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven) have recently come through the system.
To get an insight, ESPN FC caught up with the club's sporting director Marco Garces.
ESPN FC: How important is the Club World Cup to Pachuca?
Marco Garces: We've been there a few times now. We're probably the team that has gone the most times to the Club World Cup and we've always had a poor performance over there, so we're very excited and we're very hopeful about the prospect of doing better than what we've done in the past.
ESPN FC: What is the goal for the tournament?
MG: We want to go through the first stage against Wydad Casablanca, the Moroccan team, and then try our luck with Gremio. I think if we can reach the final it'd be a great tournament.
ESPN FC: Why is Grupo Pachuca buying so many clubs?
MG: The idea is to replicate the model that has been successful with Pachuca. We bought in the second division and eventually it has become a good business to replicate that business in a similar way in different places. I don't think it has grown from a planned project, more reacting to opportunities. Leon was a sleeping giant losing money; we could see that if we operated it correctly we could make money.
It was the same thing with Everton. It is a great pool of talent, look how many Chileans are doing great. We thought if we moved there we'd have a stronghold on the talent in Chile. Now with Talleres, the same. A sleeping giant that we bought in the third division and now they're playing in the first division. We have 45 players in the national teams in Pachuca, Leon has about 10, Mineros has two, Everton has six and Talleres is now moving towards eight. In total that's about 100 players in youth national teams and we think that will eventually pay off.
ESPN FC: Do you think the owners will purchase more clubs?
MG: It's on the agenda. We want to buy more clubs, but we don't want to have a planned strategy, it's more reacting to nice opportunities the market throws at you. I think the president has his eyes open and is ready to react, or as you say in England, he has his ear to the ground.
ESPN FC: Does the fact Mexico business magnate Carlos Slim has sold his shares in the club do any damage to the long-term plan?
MG: I think it won't affect us. It was very important at that time to have Slim with us. It was always in the plan. It was only going to be for a brief time. But in the moment it was essential for us to break the (television) duopoly and really try to get new competitors in and be able to cash in on TV rights.
ESPN FC: What about the Keisuke Honda signing? It seems like it was a different tact for Pachuca, who appear to usually go for younger players or South Americans with potential.
MG: It was weird. It was an opportunity the market threw at us. As we always say in scouting and planning, we can plan for 80 percent of what happens and then the remaining 20 percent is something you have to react to. It's not something that we usually do, but it has been a great experience for us. It has made us grow because he is a company. He has 150 (people) working for him. He has merchandising rights, marketing rights, TV revenue, sponsorships, so to us as a company it made us grow because we have to deal with a lot more things than we usually do.
It has been an eye-opener in the sense of what a contract must include. And he's been a breath of fresh air for the club because he is highly professional. We always knew we needed important role models in the first division because we're producing players and he's had a great effect in that sense because now the players watch him, watch the way he trains, watch the way he looks after himself, he hires a chef, he looks after everything he eats and now that culture is dripping down.
ESPN FC: Does youth production still need improving in Mexico?
MG: There's a lot of work still to do. I think we've grown massively in certain areas. I think the physical preparation now is a lot better. I think the technical / tactical preparation is good, but we still have to grow in the mental aspect of it, the nutritional side of it. We still have many things that are tied to our culture that are not good for producing players.
ESPN FC: Can you give one example?
MG: Like the way we eat. We express love in Mexico through food. Everyone invites you to their house and they want you to eat way over what you should eat and the players with us in Pachuca they grow up away from their homes and they feel ties to their home through food. They must eat a lot better. Right now they think nutrition is only for overweight people and it's not about that. It's the petrol that you put in your engine. We can do that a lot better. To try and educate is to go against the culture and the way it has always been done. That's one example but there are plenty of them.
ESPN FC: Is it fair to say Mexico has been respected but not really feared at the international level?
MG: That's the thing about the mentality that has been done in youth national teams that we haven't been able to replicate at senior level. We can beat anyone. We can beat Germany, Argentina, Brazil, but we can't beat those three in a row and that's what you need to do to be a World Cup winner. It seems to me that whenever we get a good result we are very frail; we do not become as serious.
We were talking the other day because we went over (to Europe) to play Celta Vigo and PSV and we would see important combinations of play, three or four passes in a row, then six or seven, and in Mexico it is difficult to see that. After three or four passes someone will do a back heel or a flick or throw in a nutmeg. It's like we immediately get over our heads.
ESPN FC: It feels like Pachuca has made its recently formed women's team in the Liga MX Femenil a priority?
MG: It's always been our mission from when we started hearing about it. We wanted to do a good job, to play good football and to send a message about the quality. We treat the women exactly the same as the men, they are under the same structure, they play 4-2-3-1, they train the same way, they have the same rights and obligations as male players and we want them to play nice football that represents Pachuca. I think we've done that.
ESPN FC: You've recently stated that there is interest from Europe in Erick Gutierrez. Is there anything more concrete?
MG: It's just interest, rumors, but we don't have an offer. I personally think, and it is only my opinion, not Pachuca's, that the summer market is a lot better than the winter market.
ESPN FC: Aside from Gutierrez, which other young Mexicans should those watching the Club World Cup look out for?
MG: I think [Victor] Guzman definitely has that chance. He's the top (Mexican) scorer even though he is not an attacker. He played as a central defender or as sitting midfielder and now he's scoring goals and playing well. I think Guzman is definitely one to watch. And another one who is quite young but if he comes on will be interesting to watch is [Francisco] Figueroa.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.