When Victor Manuel Vucetich was appointed coach of Mexican Primera Division side CF Monterrey ahead of the 2009 Clausura, he surely could not have imagined being in the same role three and a half years later. Mexican football is dominated by short-termism and despite a medal cabinet comprised of the spoils of three Primera Division titles, two Copa Mexico triumphs and two Segunda Division successes, Vucetich had never previously spent more than three years at the same club. His had been a peripatetic career to that point, taking in thirteen spells at eleven different employers.
Only two other coaches in the league are still in the same job they held at the start of 2009. In the 2011/12 season alone, 19 coaches have lost theirs. Yet despite the prevailing market conditions Vucetich has retained his. Primera Division title wins in the Aperturas of 2009 and 2010 and a CONCACAF Champions League triumph in 2011 certainly helped. But in the general scheme of things in Mexico, Vucetich may well have expected to be relieved of his duties following a disappointing second half of 2011 in which Monterrey finished 11th in the Apertura and then fell at the first hurdle in the FIFA Club World Cup, defeated on penalties by Kashiwa Reysol.
Monterrey’s board, however, showed valuable foresight and gave their coach full backing going into 2012. Their reward came late in April when Los Rayados defeated Santos Laguna 3-2 on aggregate to win a second consecutive CONCACAF Champions League crown. The victory maintained Vucetich’s incredible record of winning all eleven of the finals in which he has competed as coach and continued Mexican domination of a competition last won by a club from another nation seven years ago. Monterrey also finished second in the regular season of the 2012 Clausura and have, at time of writing, secured passage to the semi-finals of the playoffs.
But it is not just in the dugout that stability has reigned supreme. Seven of the players who started the first leg of the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League final also started the first leg of the 2012 final. Two more of the 2011 starters were on the bench a year later, while Ricardo Osorio, the experienced Mexican international defender, missed the final through injury. In fact, of those who started either leg of the 2011 final only Sergio Santana and Osvaldo Martinez have since left the club. Going back even further, seven of the eleven who emerged victorious from the 2009 Apertura final are still employed by Monterrey.
The reasons for this invariability are twofold. Firstly, Monterrey have an excellent youth system that produced four of the players who started the 2012 final, among them the highly promising goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco and talented Sergio Busquets-esque midfielder Jesus Zavala. Secondly, the club has made smart choices in the transfer market, choosing players likely to stay for extended periods of time. Of the seven non-youth team graduates who started the first leg of the 2012 final, three were already there when Vucetich arrived in 2009 and two have been at the club since 2010.
Genuine consistency in the playing staff makes it easier for the team to integrate new signings, such as the volatile but talented Angel Reyna, who joined at the start of 2012 after being relegated to the reserves at his previous club, America, for verbally attacking the team’s captain Aquivaldo Mosquera. Along with summer 2011 recruit, former Lyon forward Cesar Delgado, Reyna has been eased into first team action, playing a defined role in a team very much comfortable with the style and function requested of them by Vucetich.
Monterrey run like a well-oiled machine, each player completely aware of what is expected of him and able to produce to that expectation. It would be tempting to assume that they could absorb the loss of most players, although that would perhaps be difficult to say of Chilean striker Humberto Suazo, top scorer in the 2012 CONCACAF Champions League and on the verge of becoming the club’s all-time top goalscorer. Always instinctive, at times infuriating but regularly brilliant, the stoutly-built striker’s awkward gait belies a talent that one feels should really have been afforded more than a fleeting opportunity in Europe at Real Zaragoza. With a summer move away from Monterrey a distinct possibility – he very nearly joined Argentina’s Boca Juniors in January – his will be difficult boots to fill.
Vucetich, however, is sure to have planned for such an eventuality and is already looking forward with relish to the end of the year and the opportunity to right the wrong of 2011’s disappointing Club World Cup campaign. "Last year was a good experience and now with that experience that we had last year in Japan, I think that we can arrive in better form and think about doing things differently,” he commented following the Champions League final. If his side can continue the steady growth that has served them so well up to this point then the honour of becoming the first Mexican side to compete in the final of the competition is certainly not beyond them.