Carlos Vela spent the last three years telling El Tri he’s not that into them, but this week, he’s been welcomed back into the fold. For a team full of talented strikers, up and coming defenders, and serious questions in midfield, the results on the field will change little. However, for the Mexican national team, sometimes the drama off the field is more exciting than the action on it. Does Vela’s return signify maturity on his part or the FMF (Federación Mexican de Fútbol)? I wouldn’t count on it.
It seems like only yesterday that youthful Carlos Vela and Giovani Dos Santos were tearing up the Under-17 World Cup. In the nine years since, both players have faced trials and tribulations. Yes, they scored goals in Gold Cup finals, but both failed to settle in England. Vela was little more than a cup specialist at Arsenal, and Dos Santos spectacularly flamed out at Spurs. Both found new life in Spain, with Dos Santos excelling at Villareal and Vela tearing things up at La Real Sociedad. However, things weren’t all rosy for Vela: in terms of la seleccion, he was still on the outside looking in.
In Monterrey, Mexico, in September of 2011, El Tri beat Colombia 1-0 in a friendly. Afterward, several players threw a party in the team’s hotel. The press reported that escorts allegedly arrived, but the players denied this as did the then director, Néstor De La Torre. Regardless, 11 players were fined, with Vela and Efraín Juárez suspended for six months. Vela returned for a single match against Venezuela, but then refused any future call-ups.
His reasons always changed. First, he had a bad relationship with the coach. Then, he wanted to establish himself with his new club La Real Sociedad. Then, he cited personal reasons. Now, it’s been over three years since Vela adorned the tricolor.
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images
Ahead of this summer’s World Cup, Miguel Herrera flew to Spain along with FMF officials to speak with Vela. Herrera wanted to gauge his interest in playing for El Tri. He got smacked down. Vela, in an open letter to fans, said he was not “100 percent mentally ready.” However, there were other interesting tidbits. He observed that players and the FMF had “suffered during qualification” and been “criticized by the press.” Lastly, he noted that it would not be fair for him to be among the 23 players who go to Brazil after playing no role in qualification.
That’s true, but it’s coach speak, not player speak. If you are a player, going to a World Cup is a dream. Rafa Marquez played no role in qualifying aside from the final few games in Brazil, but still gladly went and started for El Tri. Mexican fans rack their heads and still ask: why did Vela say no so often? Did Vela hate the prior coach, José Manuel De La Torre? Did he hold a grudge against certain FMF officials for suspending him instead of just fining him like several other players? In reality, the last explanation is the least likely: golden boy Jonathan Dos Santos got suspended for six months for a similar incident at the Copa America a year later. There was no double standard, just strict rules.
Of course, you can’t talk about Carlos Vela without first looking at El Tri’s other forward options. Yes, Vela has been on fire at La Real, but Peralta has better hold up play, Dos Santos is a better creator, and Chicharito is a speed demon with good finishing (sometimes). Forward is not really a problem for Mexico right now. Yes, Vela has a shot comparable to Peralta and can dribble like Gio, but the team already struggles to field all its talented attackers at a single time. If anything, El Tri has called up Vela for the same reason fans love Vela and rack their heads thinking about him: they maybe can’t have him.
The bottom line is that Carlos Vela is just not that into you. If you look at his Twitter account, he’s enjoying life in Spain and likes to use his free time to roll with his family. He watched Mexico at the World Cup and tweeted all the right things, but perhaps enjoys the low pressure life at a mid-table club like La Real Sociedad as opposed El Tri’s life in the fishbowl. His lack of commitment should make fans angry and be a cause of concern, not a reason to keep begging, pleading, and hoping he’ll change his mind.
He’s just not that into you. Deal.