If you watched the first leg game of the Liga MX Apertura 2013 Final, then you saw several players out on the field who according to the Mexican press either have been and or are being tracked by European teams as a result of their performances for club and for Mexico, especially in the 2014 World Cup Qualifying Playoff against New Zealand. Out of all the players rumored to being followed and tracked by said scouts, the one whom rumors and performance has been above the rest is that of Club Leon attacking midfielder Carlos Peña.
Nicknamed ‘El Gullit’ because his hairstyle resembles that of Dutch great Ruud Gullit, Peña has been one of Leon’s best players during the Apertura 2013 season and in the 18 months since Leon have been back in the first division, he has been there most consistent and best player. The 23 year old from Ciudad Victoria in the state of Tamaulipas has in a period of a couple of years gone from castaway youth prospect to a player who is a sure starter when Mexico kickoff their 2014 World Cup tournament against Cameroon come June 2014.
‘El Gullit’ Peña began his professional career with Pachuca and would make his professional debut back in 2010 and would go on to make 20 appearances with Pachuca between 2010 and 2011. But then as his young career was at a crossroads, Peña was sent to play for Leon who at the time was in the second division and recently bought by the same ownership group that owns Pachuca (something that only happens in Mexico). With Leon, Peña found himself with a team where he would be able to develop as an attacking midfielder and his development further unfolded with the arrival of Gustavo Matosas as coach of Club Leon.
He was an integral part of the team that would help Leon return to the Mexican first division after a 10-year absence and in the first season back in Mexico’s first division, Leon surprised many by reaching the semifinals of the Apertura 2012 playoffs eventually losing to champions Xolos de Tijuana. Peña was a big reason for their play and as a result earned his first call up to the Mexican National Team to play in a couple of World Cup Qualifiers. In 2013, Peña continued to be a key player who consistently played well for Leon and while he had a disappointing 2013 Gold Cup, it later became clear that it had to due because of the coach and not the player.
Despite that disappointment Peña would show why he has been called one of Mexico’s best prospects as his play in the two game era of Victor Manuel Vucetich as coach of the Mexican National Team was one of the few that was not critiqued and then his play when Miguel Herrera was appointed interim coach for the final phase of World Cup Qualifying showed many that he was steadily maturing as an attacking midfielder whose playing style is much like that of Frank Lampard during his formative years with Chelsea as Peña never tires of running and attacking the opposition area while he also possessing a keen knack for scoring goals.
As mentioned earlier, Peña is not the only player playing in the final rumored to be a player of interest for some team(s) in Europe as teammate Luis Montes has been rumored to being tracked while Club America duo Miguel Layun and Raul Jimenez are reportedly being tracked by Cardiff City of the Premier League. Yet Peña has been the player with the most concrete reported interest as Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon have already submitted an offer. Whether he ends up being sold to Sporting time will tell but what is clear is this, Carlos ‘El Gullit’ Peña will be the latest Mexican player to continue playing in Europe.