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Lack of Mexico players in top European leagues continues to be a concern

The Premier League gets underway this weekend with its usual cosmopolitan cast of players representing over 60 countries from every corner of the planet. But not one will be Mexican.

That probably wouldn't matter so much if scores of Mexican players were lining up for Spain or Germany's top clubs, but barring Bayer Leverkusen's Javier Hernandez and potentially Villarreal's Jonathan dos Santos, there are no other Mexicans featuring both in one of the top four leagues in the world and playing in the Champions League. The repercussions for the national team should be obvious.

"There is nothing that can replace competition, we're very clear about that," lamented Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio in an extensive interview last week with TV Azteca.

The fact that there are only 13 Mexican players in top-flight European leagues this upcoming season is again problematic in that sense. The issue is accentuated with Mexico playing the vast majority of its friendlies in the comfortable confines of the United States, backed by supportive crowds and usually against nations that aren't amongst the best in the world. Then in Mexico, foreigners are often a majority in Liga MX starting XIs, even if the league is likely to improve with the recent influx.

Osorio spoke at length for the first time since Mexico's 7-0 defeat to Chile in June in the quarterfinal of the Copa America Centenario in the aforementioned interview. In it, he discusses a meeting with a manager who was able to change the footballing mentality of a nation (widely speculated to have been former Chile head coach Marcelo Bielsa) and what needs to be done for Mexico to take a leap forward at international level.

The key part was on his players challenging themselves at club level in the knowledge that CONCACAF region World Cup qualifying and competition from friendlies won't be enough to get El Tri where Osorio wants them to be.

"We can't escape the reality [in the game against Chile] that [Arturo] Vidal was coming from being the most influential midfielder in the Bundesliga. Then you add [Alexis] Sanchez, and [Claudio] Bravo and [Gary] Medel etcetera," said Osorio.

"They are players that are in Italy, Spain and England. With full respect, being in Portugal or Holland is not the same. Hopefully our players, through good performances, get to those leagues. And to the extent that we achieve that, Mexican football will get better and progress."

It was a pretty strong statement and although Osorio has previously said he wants more Mexicans in Europe, it was the way he differentiated between the leagues that hit home. PSV duo Hector Moreno and Andres Guardado, Benfica's Raul Jimenez and Porto trio Jesus "Tecatito" Corona, Miguel Layun and Hector Herrera are all at good clubs, but Osorio wants more.

With that in mind, the Colombian will be perturbed that the flow of players this summer has gone in the other direction than what he'd hope for -- more players have moved from Europe to the Liga MX than vice-versa. In fact, no player has yet transferred from Mexico's first division to a European first division and the Portuguese and Dutch-based Mexican contingent look increasingly likely to stay where they are.

There have been rumors about Olympian Hirving Lozano attracting Premier League interest, but nothing concrete and the Pachuca winger hasn't covered himself in glory so far at Rio 2016.

If nothing else changes, next season Dos Santos (Villarreal), Guillermo Ochoa (Granada) and Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad) will feature in Spain and Hernandez and Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt) will be in the Bundesliga, but not having a single player in the Premier League is something Osorio will particularly lament.

"Never has the Premier League been gifted with so many ambitious people or clubs at the start of the season," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger this week.

While the money pouring into the Premier League from the new TV deal is important in terms of clubs being able to splash out, it's the conglomeration and concentration of great footballing minds that increasingly sets the league apart.

The likes of Jose Mourinho (Manchester United), Pep Guardiola (Manchester City), Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham Hotspur), Wenger, Antonio Conte (Chelsea), Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool) and Claudio Ranieri (Leicester) will all be perusing over their internationalized squads to pick their starting line-ups for their Premier League opener, without a single Mexican player in sight.

It certainly is the "world championship of managers" that Wenger describes.

The money and pull the Premier League has for top managers is obvious and it should mean the league establishes itself as the undisputed leader in overall quality soon enough. Along the way, Osorio will be hoping some of his younger Mexican players at least get a chance to jump on the bandwagon.