Football

Raul Jimenez willing to voluntarily step aside if unfit

With the 2022 World Cup inching closer every day, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino’s problems are getting bigger. The Mexican head coach has to announce his squad for the Qatar extravaganza and injuries are piling up. 

Mexico’s all-time top scorer, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez has already been ruled out and did not even make the preliminary squad. Martino is now worried Raul Jimenez will also be joining the LA Galaxy star. 

Jimenez has only played four matches this season and has a tough battle with father time to recover from injuries. Knee and groin issues have kept him on the sidelines and time is running out for him. 

Raúl Jiménez

Injured Jimenez master of his destiny

The Wolverhampton Wanderers understand that he has an uphill battle to be ready for Mexico’s World Cup opener against Poland in Group C. To tackle the issue, the 31-year-old has decided to come to the front of it.

While talking to ESPN Mexico, he gave an update on his progress of working alone. However, he admitted that he is far from match-ready at the moment. 

More importantly, Jimenez took the decision of being axed from the squad from Martino and stated that he will voluntarily take himself from the running and watch from the sidelines. 

“I am working with the ball, separated from the group, but I am already warming up with the team and I can do various things,” Jimenez shared.

“I’m not ready to compete yet. Physically I feel good, even though it’s been (more than) two months since my last match.

“The squad list is due on Nov. 14. If I don’t feel up to it by then, that’s as far as it goes and I wish the team the best of luck.”

Vela will not return to El Tri

Chicharito’s absence and the looming uncertainty about Jimenez had propelled questions about Carlos Vela returning to the national team. 

The 33-year-old is enjoying life with Los Angeles FC and will add much-needed experience to their attack. He announced his retirement from international duty in 2018 and has focused on club commitments in Major League Soccer since.

It had been rumoured that the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) directors had also made contact with Vela about his availability. The former Arsenal and Real Sociedad man outrightly rejected such claims and shared he only has well wishes for the team going to Qatar. 

“I don’t know who it was with,” Vela told ESPN. “I don’t know why people keep wanting to look for something that isn’t there.”

Changing of the guard

The absence of Jimenez and Chicharito will signal a changing of the guard at El Tri. It would mean that Mexico will go into the competition without their two top scorers. 

The situation opens the door for Santiago Gimenez to take centre stage. The young Feyenoord attacker will be replacing the Hidalgo native in Qatar.

While struggling for goals in the Eredivisie, the 21-year-old has impressed in the UEFA Europa League. As it stands, he is the joint top scorer in the group stages, most recently helping De Stadionclub register a 1-0 win against Lazio, earning their spot in the knockout stages.