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Why Chicharito sparked Mexican storm recommending Jonathan Espericueta to Man Utd

Chicharito lit a Mexican firecracker back home when mentioning Jonathan Espericueta to Manchester United coaching staff last month.

Espericueta is no mystery to Mexican football fans. Since inspiring his country to win the U17 World Championship two years ago, debate has raged over the winger's progress at Tigres UNAL.

And news that Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez had recommended the teen to his club's coaching staff forced Tigres powerbrokers to respond to accusations that they were killing off the career of one of their great, young hopes before it had even begun.

Rated so highly within Mexican football, Espericueta is still to make his Liga debut for Tigres - though has managed to taste senior action in the Copa Libertadores. That Tigres coach Ricardo Ferreti is no great fan of the competition only stoked the fires that local football weren't doing enough to bring through their U17 heroes.

It reached the point last season when Espericueta considered a move to Costa Rica's Alajuelense just to taste first team football - before he was given his chance in the Copa Libertadores.

Ferreti has defended his selection policy, insisting he couldn't count on Espericueta when he was continually being called away from Tigres to fulfil U20 duties.

"People always say - 'so why not this guy', and you know where it comes from, 'why not Espericueta?'.

"it's because he can work with me one day and them do six months training with the national team (Under 20).

"If I wanted to, I could demand he come home and they'd tell him he would not be allowed to do preseason."

Tigres president, Alejandro Rodriguez, also insists: "These young players have spent 25 per cent with us and 75 per cent with the national team. They return tired, beaten, you do not know many things, but we will not be telling you everything.

"Jonathan has rightly been praised by the media and fans. But he hasn't been ready. We believe he is ready now. Ricardo has always said when he feels he can succeed in the Primera Division, he will select him."

Things are about to change, says club spokesman Miguel Angel Garz, if, of course, Espericueta stays.

"He is already a first team player. He has been training with the first team squad and will be involved in preseason," argued Garz.

"He can play as an attacking winger and is seen at Tigres as a creative midfielder. If the coach needed him, he would be called to the first team without any doubts." The question is, whether it's all a little too late for Tigres management.

In Turkey, Espericueta again shone in the U20 World Cup, where he was watched by scouts from Europe's biggest clubs, including Manchester United. Boasting great pace and ball control, Espericueta is an exciting, left wing talent in the best traditions of Ryan Giggs.

With Mexico's World Cup campaign over, by his own admission, Espericueta can now focus on the options in front of him - whether that's staying with Tigres or taking a chance and moving to Europe.

"The rumours are flattering, but not a distraction for me. There will be time for all this," he said during the World Cup, "but today is not the time. It would be a major jump (going to United) but as I say, right now I'm focused with the national team."

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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