Mexico's Olympic gold medalist Hector Herrera could be just what Manchester United's midfield is lacking.
The 22-year-old midfielder played a key role in the Olympic triumph, bossing the park with combative performances and composed passing.
Born in Tijuana, Herrera plays for Pachuca, a mid-level Mexican club which regularly makes the championship playoffs.
He is one of many talented youngsters currently emerging from Mexico, a sleeping giant of world football and the winner of the Under-17 World Cup in both 2005 and 2011.
Although full of potential, Herrera notably lacks experience. He has played just 2,000 minutes in 27 appearances in Mexico's premier division, with no goals but eight yellow cards and two reds to his name.
Almost unknown a year ago, he made his name in recent months with Mexico's under-23 side, with whom he has 20 caps and two goals, each coming in 4-2 victories over Holland and Senegal this summer.
Herrera was the standout player in the friendly Toulon Tournament in France, which served as a warm up for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Mexico duly won the competition and Herrera was awarded the "Meilleur Joueur" prize for player of the tournament.
Seemingly indefatigable, Herrera looked equally comfortable shielding the back four or driving forward and creating chances with incisive passes. He carried this form into the Olympics, proving himself in midfield battles against some lauded opponents, including Brazil's Oscar and Sandro in the final.
Amusingly, Herrera has already picked up some unfortunate nicknames throughout his fledgling career. British media outlets have mistakenly reported that Herrera's nickname is "Zorro" (Spanish for fox), but he is actually known as "El Zorillo" (the skunk). He has also been dubbed "the Mexican Ribery" due to his somewhat unsightly visage.
Liverpool are reportedly interested in his signature, but Pachuca president Andres Fassi has said "his future is with Manchester United." An unconfirmed fee of €13.5 million is being bandied about in the Mexican press and it is thought Herrera will be loaned back to Pachuca until Mexico's Apertura 2012 league ends in December.
If true, this would be the most expensive deal in Mexican football history. Given his inexperience, Herrera may represent something of a risk for United, but the Mexican market still offers good value for money in comparison to the inflated world of English football.
Mexican players have typically struggled to adapt to English football, with the likes of Carlos Vela, Giovani Dos Santos and Pablo Barrera having failed to break through at Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham respectively.
But Herrera would benefit from the presence of compatriot Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez at Old Trafford. After an impressive debut season and a solid but injury-blighted second year, Hernandez is somewhat unfortunate to find himself behind Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and high-profile signing Robin Van Persie in the pecking order. Even so, Hernandez remains the most successful Mexican currently playing in Europe, and an example of how best to make the transition across the Atlantic.
Herrera will need playing time to develop his game and with Liverpool already well stacked in his prefered position, United seems a more sensible and attractive option from his perspective.
Having never properly replaced Roy Keane, United have long been crying out for an imposing presence in central midfield. With Darren Fletcher's future in doubt due to health problems and both Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes surely in their final seasons at the club, United only have Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley and Nick Powell to rely upon in central midfield in the future.
The brilliant Ya Ya Toure was arguably the difference between the two Manchester clubs last season, and while Herrera is currently nowhere near his level, it is this position that Sir Alex Ferguson needs to address most.
By moving to Old Trafford, Herrera would benefit from the coaching of Ferguson, who - the Van Persie signing aside - generally prefers buying young, raw talent that he can mold; and from playing and training with consummate professionals such as Giggs and Scholes.
With half a season to develop and ease himself into English football, Herrera could well earn himself a place in United's starting 11 by the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
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