My Football Journey: The Road to 2026 is a series that follows key moments in the careers of some of the world’s most exciting young footballers.
It shows how different their journeys are as they dream of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.
Mexico’s disappointing performance at the World Cup in Qatar was the final act of a two-year decline in Mexican football. El He Tori failed to advance to his stage by knockout for the first time since 1978. This is because the under-20 men’s team failed to qualify for the Olympics and his Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia next year.
For a country like Mexico where football is thriving, this is a crisis.
Mexico is taking steps ahead of co-hosting the 2026 World Cup. From 2023, Liga MX will reduce the number of foreign players a team can sign from 10 to 9. The long-term goal is to give the Mexican-born player more opportunities to play at the top of his division in the country, especially for Academy players.
One club in Mexico that is renowned for consistently producing top-notch academy talent is Club Santos Laguna. At Worlds 2022 his Cup, Mexico’s roster included his three former Santos players. Ajax full-back Jorge Sanchez. Uriel Antuna signed for Manchester City in 2017 but is currently at Cruz Azul.
Newcastle United’s Santiago Muñoz, 20, is another promising young player who joined Santos’ academy as an under-17 player. His one of Mexico’s top-backs is his Santos right-back, Omar Campos, 23.
Dante Elizalde, executive president of Club Santos, said: “Academy players are making a special effort because they are so sympathetic to the colors of the club.” athletic They are[Club Santos]fans who play for the first team. Academy players spend a minimum of five to six years within the club’s facilities before making their debut in the first division. Some spent up to ten years at the club before playing for the first team. They are club-linked players. ”
Salvador Mariscal epitomizes such expectations. The 19-year-old Central His midfielder joined the club at the age of 13 and plays for the club His Santos U20. The young Mariscal grew up in Torreon as his father had played for the club he Santos before him, as a defender from 1994 until his 2000. club is located.
“I’m from here and my father used to play here. That’s where my love for the club began,” says Mariscal, who is also a member of the Mexico U20 team. athletic“Then I started going to the games, I got to know the stadium and the club. Now that I have the chance to play for this club, it’s very special. I’ve worked every day in. I will support (Club Santos) for the rest of my life.”
Nicknamed ‘Chava’, Mariscal can play both as a defensive holding midfielder and as a two-way No. 8. His tall build (6 feet 1 inch) and clean technique resemble Mexican international and Ajax midfielder Edson his Alvarez.
“He’s a role model for me,” says Mariscal. “Edson has a lot of himself. I feel like we have a lot in common. are trying to imitate.”
Mariscal takes great pride in his ability to break lines on passes. He speaks confidently about his overall skill set and enjoys being a player who builds plays from the back and provides balance in midfield. “I consider myself a smart player,” he added.
Part of Club Santos’ culture embraces the Guerrero (warrior) spirit. The club adopts a high-tempo, high-press style of play. At Liga MX level, they are still one of the tougher teams to play against. These physical demands start at an early age for academy players. Initially it was a challenge for Mariscal.
“At first, I didn’t have the energy,” says Mariscal. “But I’ve embraced it and started adding it to my game. We’re warriors here at Santos, so it’s become a part of me in every match and every training session. Apply that grit.
“My father was a centre-back. He played for Atlas and Morelia, teams that no longer exist. He also played for Santos. He was a tough player, and that’s what I take from him every day.”
Mariscal says he dreams of making his first-team debut for Santos. So far, his days at the club have been something of a scholarship. He arrives at the facility for training at 8:00 am and leaves the ground at 1:00 pm. He eats lunch at his house, spends time with his two younger brothers and parents, takes a short nap, and then heads to the gym for some extra strength training. Mariscal is also studying business administration.
“I take courses every day, and I go to school,” says Mariscal. “I take courses online, which we have all been doing here at Club Santos since the beginning.”
The educational component is a non-negotiable aspect of the club’s academy. The club has educators on campus who work directly with local schools and colleges where players are enrolled. Club Santos also has two clinical psychologists and his two sports psychologists on staff.
“We started investing in infrastructure a long time ago,” says Elizalde. “Our campus has all the facilities needed to develop not only our Academy players, but our first team. The life of an academy player and the life of a first-team player will always take place here.”
— Club Santos (@ClubSantos) October 24, 2021
The club will not rush Mariscal into promotion or push him into Liga MX until he is ready. Internally, we are confident that Mariscal will exceed expectations. Talking to this player, you can tell that he is not only confident and well-spoken, but also a huge football fan. He worships Lionel Messi and has always said that Messi was his hero.
“He’s a different player. He’s the best player in the world,” says Mariscal. “I had a lot of posters of Messi. Most of them were posters of Messi when he was in Barcelona.”
Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne are two players Mariscal also admires. Mariscal says he believes he has Busquets-like qualities. He mentioned another midfielder, Andrés Guardado, as a Mexican national team player he has always looked up to.
As he grew up and took a more tactical view of football, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta (former Barcelona midfield star) were two players Mariscal learned from. But talking about De Bruyne makes Mariscal’s eyes light up and his smile bigger.
“The vision and technique he has for making passes, I love it,” he says. “I watch his games, I watch his videos on YouTube. De Bruyne and Busquets are elite players.”
Asked if he has a personal style on the pitch, low socks or brightly colored boots, Mariscal smiles, shakes his head and responds like a professional footballer. “I think it shows my style based on how I play.”
Mariscal is not a flashy player. He has intention in possession and is disciplined on and off the pitch. He says his family is what motivates him the most and plays for them, hoping to reward their support by “giving them joy” with every performance he performs. increase.
Mariscal is a dreamer, a young idealist who envisions his name among the greats of Club Santos.
“I want to make my professional debut with Santos, settle down here and become a club idol. Playing in Europe is also a dream. I would like to play.”
(Image above: designed by Eamonn Dalton, photo by Getty Images)