By Ivan Orozco
PASADENA, CA -- Raul Jimenez envisioned it.
The Club America striker could see himself living the image that repeatedly played out in his head. He would become a star footballer on one of the world’s better known clubs.
The 22-year-old from Hidalgo, Mexico, has said he is an avid Real Madrid fan. He has daydreamed about playing in La Liga with such a club. In a way, Reyna is living that dream. Some might say he is living it on a smaller scale, but he is getting the opportunity within Mexico’s top-flight league.
“I have the vision of some day playing in Real Madrid,” said Jimenez, who in 56 matches with Club America has scored 15 times since he moved up the ranks in the youth system in 2010. “I’ve always root for that team. If I get the chance, if there was one, it would be difficult. I would first have to go to another team but I’d take advantage of the situation if given a chance.”
Jimenez will now get a chance to try and be a standout player with the senior national team as he joins El Tri for the 2013 edition of the Gold Cup. Mexico opens Group A play Sunday against Panama at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Jimenez is already an Olympic gold medalist as he helped Mexico’s Under-23 team clinch the tournament championship in last summer’s London Games. He has the chance to become a recognized figure, not just in Mexico for his performance at the Olympics, but as a member of the senior team.
Jimenez is the only player on Mexico’s Gold Cup roster who was part of El Tri’s Confederations Cup squad. Since he does not play for a European team, it makes it easier for him to participate in this Gold Cup; and he might just use it as a possible audition.
That is if head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre decides to insert him into the starting lineup. Guadalajara’s Marco Fabian, Rafael Marquez Lugo and Javier Orozco have been used as strikers in pre-tournament friendlies. El Tri has not had favorable results, losing to Mexican club Queretaro 3-2 in its last preparation match.
“We want to win the Gold Cup,” de la Torre said in a news conference after losing to Queretaro. “We are taking it step-by-step. We are focused on this tournament. We will look at all our players and we will see which ones are in their best moment and make changes if needed.”
It could be time for a change and Jimenez can be part of it. After all, he is considered an up-and-coming talent.
Jimenez made his Olympic debut in a group stage match against South Korea, a scoreless draw, in which he came on as a substitute and nearly scored. He also played as a sub against Switzerland, Senegal, Japan and Brazil in the final.
We will have to wait and see if the Club America striker becomes a staple on de la Torre’s squad. In the meantime, Jimenez will continue to envision playing in Europe like his idols Hugo Sanchez and Raul Gonzalez, both former Real Madrid stars. And if he doesn’t reach his goal to play for his favorite European club, there is always the national team and the possibility of winning even more international championships.
“The moment when we become world champions can come,” Jimenez said about Mexico, whose Under-17 team won FIFA World Cups in 2005 and 2011. “It’s a process, the same way that Spain did it, we can also do it. We have a good nest of players. We are Under-17 and Under-23 champions. We can reach something special with this (Gold Cup) squad.”