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Rebound in Liga MX: Enner Valencia

Saturday 29th July 2017
The Ecuadorian forward, Enner Valencia, has returned to Liga MX with Tigres UANL after a turbulent time in the Premier League. He scored a hat-trick in his first game back in Mexico, but why didn't it work for him in England and why does he play so well in the home of El Tricolor?

Born in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, the forward player started his career at Club Sport Emelec. He soon proved to be a notable talent both in domestic league and for the national team. His successes included winning the Ecuadorian league, before making a move to much more illustrious Liga MX for the 2014 season.

His first tenure in Mexico was short but ever so sweet. He joined C.F. Pachuca, a club from South Central Mexico, in the state of Hidalgo. Whilst there he made 23 appearances across the extensive Mexican season and scored an astonishing 18 goals. Those of you who are fond of stats means he scored 0.78 goals every time he donned the famous blue and white stripes. By all means a good statistic for any footballer. These stats made him the league's top scorer in the season's Clausura 2014.

This desirable performance made him a transfer target amongst European clubs. He signed for West Ham United, despite openly stating he knew very little about the club. The manager, Sam Allardyce, showed faith in Valencia and afforded him 32 starts in the Premier League, although failed to replicate the level of football he was playing back in Central America.

His poor first season and a change of manager meant that Enner found himself on the fringes of the West Ham squad. 23 games and a mere five goals wasn't an ideal record for the whole season across all competitions. It is only fair to mention that injury played a part in his season and kept him out for around 12 weeks. He did however notably score on his Europa League debut for the club against Astra Giurgiu as well as scoring an impressive free kick against Bournemouth. Altogether though, his stock was diminishing within the ranks of West Ham.

He spent his next season with Everton, a season-long loan would potentially freshen up the South American and restore his knack for goal scoring. Although Ronald Koeman almost definitely saw him as a rotation option making fewer appearances than he did last year with the Hammers (21) and he scored even fewer goals, just three. Statistically his worst season in the Premier League.
Throughout his time in the Premier League, Valencia was made to jump-skip-and-hop across the pitch. West Ham, at first utilised him at the top as the lead striker, which proved fruitful in games against Manchester City where he scored a brace. As time wore on, he started to become used further down as a second striker, or even an attacking mid. Everton would place him in winger-type positions but most of his time at Goodison was spent on the bench anyway and he'd hope that Romelu Lukaku would come off so he could take his place.

Given his lack of playing time and success, it's only natural for the player to want to return to a league/country where he previously tasted glory. He, therefore, crafted his way back to Liga MX, this time with Tigres UANL. The famous orange clad team of Mexico. The new Mexican football season has already started, meaning that Enner has already had the chance to play for his new team. He introduced himself well and has successfully rebounded well in Liga MX, scoring a hat-trick on his debut. Combining well with both Vargas and Gignac as they set him up for two his goals. These type of debut games rarely ever happen, but in this case are a testament to a player re-establishing his home.
Footage from his debut with Tigres.

It's almost like he's simply re-slotted himself back into Mexico with ease, with him essentially going on a three-year long transfer move from Pachuca to Tigres via London and Liverpool. But why has this transition back to Mexico been so fruitful?

The Premier League can be very challenging for new players. There are so many reasons why good players can just falter in it. In Enner Valencia's case, he was probably very homesick. Ecuador and Mexico share very similar South/Central America cultures and weather climates, which would make England look like an ice cabin to him. The jump straight from Liga MX to the Premier League is also an incredible step up in quality; something that he may not have been ready for.

Instead, a more planned career path may have seen him go to Spain, Italy or Portugal first, places which altogether more homely settings and a more appealing climate. A transition through these European leagues would galvanise him into Europe and allow him to enhance his skills. Being plucked from Liga MX and put straight into the Premier League could essentially be seen as taking a young swimmer in the paddling pool and hurling them into the Olympic serious-swimmer only lane. It wouldn't work. Whilst he's only 27, and if he had a real stellar whole season with Tigres, he could go back to Europe – he'd definitely favour that route; although may altogether avoid playing in England again.

Liga MX offers him the attacking play he likes, at his pace. The Premier League is ruthless for just how fast and demanding it is on players. It's possible that he just wasn't a fit for the league, but now has found his home, back in Mexico.
Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.

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