Hirving “Chucky” Lozano’s knee injury–as a result of a brutal no-nonsense tackle during PSV Eindhoven’s recent 3-0 victory over Willem II–has generated a cloud of anxiety among Mexican fans as El Tri prepares for summer’s Gold Cup. It’s a new chapter for Mexico, which has depth in talent but has only won one of the last three Concacaf titles. Manager Tata Martino, who embarks on his first competition since taking over, knows too well that in order to deliver, he needs his best players in order for the team to redeem itself and reclaim the trophy after losing to Jamaica in the 2017 semifinal. It's a relief, then, that Lozano's injury does not appear as serious as first feared.
“I don't think he should have any issues playing in the Gold Cup,” Martino said at a recent news conference. “The timing allows for him to recover well and participate.”
Martino added that while he believes Lozano should be ready for the summer, he won’t be placed in a position to rush the rehab process.
“We would never attempt to make him return too soon or risk it, but we're very confident that he will be able to participate in the Gold Cup," he said.
PSV, meanwhile, is currently fighting with Champions League semifinalist Ajax (they're tied at 80 points, and Ajax has +10 edge in goal difference) for the Eredivisie title and has already shut down Lozano, even though there was no ligament damage. With two matches remaining, if Mark van Bommel’s side is to win the league, it will have to do it without its top scorer, who has racked up 17 league goals.
“I am relieved that I have not picked up damage to my cruciate ligament,” Lozano said via PSV’s website this week. “But of course it’s very disappointing that I will no longer be on the pitch in the decisive phase of the competition. I have begun a rehabilitation program and will do everything to return to full fitness as soon as possible.”
Despite Gold Cup and Dutch league title aspirations, Lozano’s injury could also complicate his immediate club future. The end of this season and the summer competition were supposed to provide chances to take his promising career forward by showcasing his talent in front of European scouts.
His contract with PSV expires in the summer of 2023, and it reportedly includes a $40 million release clause. Throughout the season, as Lozano became PSV’s most important attacking player, reported interest has grown, spanning from the likes of Napoli which is currently in second place in Serie A, to Arsenal, which still hopes of competing in the Champions League next season. Manchester United, which could outbid either side, has also been mooted as a potential destination, especially with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side expected to be busy in the transfer market.
For his part, Lozano has made no secrets about playing on a bigger stage.
Last November, after PSV lost to Tottenham in the group stage of the Champions League he spoke of his desire to one day play in England. “I hope that God, some day, gives me a shot at playing in the Premier League.
“I like it very much. I think the EPL is great and it would be fabulous to play with any of the clubs, but I would love to play for one of the big teams. I hope that God gives me that chance.”
At only 23, time is on Lozano's side, and there is no doubt the Mexican star will eventually leave PSV for a bigger club. The question, however, is will it happen this summer, and, if it does, will the list of suitors diminish due to the injury impeding him from performing at 100%?
So patience, as the saying goes, is a virtue and the best thing for Lozano is not to rush his rehabilitation process. Considered one of the most talented Mexican players of his generation, the right opportunity will come for the winger whether it’s this summer or in the window after that, so it’s imperative he takes his time and doesn't rush to any decisions based on the summer. Blessed with talent such as Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, Raul Jimenez, Diego Lainez and Hector Herrera, Mexico can succeed at the Gold Cup without him. As Martino looks to build a long-term project with El Tri, where the ultimate goal is achieving success at the 2022 World Cup, Lozano must be nurtured and protected along the way, keeping an eye on the bigger picture.