In an era where the influence of the Eredivisie is waning and being widely written off, one young Mexican is continuing a tradition of Latin American inspiration in the Netherlands. Hirving Lozano, affectionately known as ‘Chucky’ in his homeland, has erupted into one of the most sought-after prospects in world football following his 2017 summer transfer from Pachuca to PSV Eindhoven.
With silverware already under his belt from his electrifying formative years at Pachuca, Chucky has landed a league title in his first season at PSV.
Lozano is the latest Mexican to win the Eredivisie with PSV, following in the footsteps of Andrés Guardado and Héctor Moreno. So what makes Chucky different? He is the star of the show in Eindhoven, dictating how the team attack with his frightening ability to play in slow motion, only to deploy his killer instinct and create goals and assists from both wide areas.
Lozano embodies modesty in victory, unfazed by the manner in which PSV won the Eredivisie title – an assured 3-0 home victory over Ajax. In an interview with PSVTV during the title celebrations, Lozano emphasised the importance of his family’s support during his move across the Atlantic.
With a World Cup on the horizon, Lozano is intent on translating his magnificent domestic form into success with the Mexican national team. Having made over 20 appearances for El Tri already, netting seven times, Lozano has embodied the team’s attacking stimulus, contributing to an inspiring run at the 2017 Confederations Cup.
Many Mexican fans are excited baout the way the national side has developed – at the very least regarding the talent coming through – since the last World Cup. Despite facing an awkward group in Russia, the idea of ‘Gambeta’ and the embodiment of this philosophy, by Lozano in particular, has enthused the fans.
But what does this idea of Gambeta mean, and how does it encapsulate the spirit of the Mexican way? Gambeta is a Spanish term that Mexicans have aligned with flair players that are extremely fast and skilful. The way that Lozano has demonstrated Gambeta has excited the whole nation, and his adaptation to the playing style of the Eredivisie has added to his arsenal of skills and his experience.
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Lozano was born in Mexico City in 1995, spending his formative years as a footballer 90 kilometres north of the capital in the city of Pachuca. It was here that he flourished, developing an intense desire to succeed, rising through the ranks at a startling pace.
At Pachuca since 2009, Lozano came off the bench away at iconic Estadio Azteca in a Liga MX match versus Club América in 2014. Nervous? Unquestionably. Intimidated? Not a chance. The youngster scored five minutes into his professional debut, cutting inside from the right-wing and placing a deadly, precise left-footed finish past a stranded Moíses Muñoz in the 89th minute.
Fast-forward three years and rumours of Chucky’s departure began to dominate the mainstream media between the winter of 2016 and the following summer. A done deal with Celta Vigo was widely reported, with Manchester City threatening to hijack the Mexican’s supposedly imminent move to Spain.
However, emerging from the shadows of disappointment after a third-place finish in the Eredivisie, PSV Eindhoven landed El Fénomeno in July 2017 for an inexpensive €8m. After bagging 18 goals in the league and eight in eight during his CONCACAF Champions League outings, Lozano’s stock rose during the 2016/17 season.
Lozano won the Champions League and the tournament’s golden boot, leading Pachuca to a stunning campaign. As well as a Clausura title in 2016, Chucky’s taste for trophies became central to his progress in Mexico, and he has evidently transferred this mentality into his PSV career.
In the context of the national team, head coach Juan Carlos Osorio has been the most prominent advocate of Lozano’s switch from Mexico to the Netherlands. The El Tri manager claimed he “almost begged” the Pachuca sporting director to allow Lozano to move.
Osorio was speaking from experience. As coach of Atlético Nacional when they sold Davinson Sánchez to Ajax in the summer of 2016, Osorio understands the value of Latin American youngsters transferring across to the Netherlands. Tottenham Hotspur acquired the services of Sánchez last summer for a club record fee of £40 million, and if Osorio is correct, the future looks prosperous for Lozano in his personal quest to reach even greater heights.
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PSV themselves are not averse to giving Mexican talent a chance, with established internationals like Guardado and Moreno contributing to the club’s domestic success in recent years, lifting the Eredivisie title in the 2015/16 season.
Lozano took inspiration from his compatriots, citing their advice as integral in his decision to swap Pachuca for Eindhoven. Indeed, his development in the Eredivisie has been particularly impressive due to his willingness to be a versatile and selfless player for the team.
PSV manager Phillip Cocu has played Lozano on the left or the right of his preferred 4-3-3 system in equal measure, an illustration of Chucky’s ability to score and assist from either flank. His relationship with striker Luuk de Jong has been integral to PSV’s capture of their 24th Dutch League title, with the pair effectively sharing goal-scoring duties and the burden of threat in attack.
The rise of Lozano has been one of near perfection. Despite a sending off in February 2018 against Heerenveen, his evolution from the vigour, colour and flair of the Mexican league to the more measured yet demanding style of the Eredivisie has been characterised by consummate ease.
The 22-year-old’s blend of explosive pace and spatial awareness has troubled defenders throughout his time in the game, and it changed the course of the title race in the Netherlands. Lozano was the highest scorer and assister at PSV when the club lifted the title, and at such a young age, his contribution to the latest success has been seismic.
Every second post on PSV’s Twitter account is dedicated to a player that has thrillingly spurred those around him to strive for greatness. Chucky is the attacking heartbeat of PSV Eindhoven, and he is one of the club’s most adored players despite only arriving last summer.
The winger’s move to Eindhoven has proved yet again that the best Latin American prospects have a finishing school in conveniently close proximity to the giants of European football if they want it. Hirving Lozano will not be gracing the Eredivisie with his splendour for much longer, but he will be leaving PSV as a hero, whenever that may be.
By Charlie Pritchard @CPritchard96