Xolos Sign Paul Arriola’s Replacement, Juan Manuel Iturbe, What Does it Mean for the Team?

Credit: Liga MX

The Liga MX Apertura 2017 has been a tough tournament for the Xolos so far.

The border city team under Eduardo Coudet have only obtained one point out of a possible 12 after four weeks of play in the competition. Inclusively, the Xoloitzcuintles have only scored one goal in these four matches, making the team statistically the worst in the league. The recent departure of American international Paul Arriola to the MLS was also surprising and was a tremendous blow to the team.

Since Arriola left for D.C. United, Coudet has been trying every player possible to fill that right-mid slot, but no one has stepped up and delivered an overly impressive performance. This Friday, Aug.18, Coudet may have just found his replacement for Arriola as it was announced by credible Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport that AS Roma’s Juan Manuel Iturbe was making the jump across the pond from Rome to Tijuana.

The deal was announced as a massive four-year agreement between Iturbe and Club Tijuana and the transfer fee was announced at a very reasonable five million euros. So, who is Juan Manuel Iturbe? Can he be that spark that the Xolos have needed offensively this season? Iturbe is still very young, at 24 years old, and has been playing in Europe since 2011.

The winger was born in Argentina, but his parents are from Paraguay and he does play for the Paraguayan national team. The 5-foot-7 forward started his career in Paraguay, then in 2011 made a tremendous career shift, moving to Portuguese team FC Porto. His time at Porto was not very eventful, but in that time, he did have a loan spell with Argentine club River Plate, where he really attracted attention. Italian club Hellas Verona bought the Argentine-born winger from Porto and Iturbe stayed with Verona until 2014. The Paraguayan international really shone with Hellas Verona, scoring eight goals in 33 appearances, earning him a huge transfer over to AS Roma.

Roma paid 24 million Euros for Iturbe but the transfer did not really pan out. The skillful player had a promising start but has never really lived up to his price tag. Iturbe had loan spells with English Premier League team Bournemouth and Italian team Torino and just recently moved back to Roma after a season away from the club. Roma lost a lot of money on Iturbe on this transfer now to Club Tijuana but the move is a very promising one for the Xolos. Iturbe has blistering pace and will now probably be the fastest player on the team and offers tremendous dribbling and shooting abilities. The Paraguayan winger can also create opportunities which is what Eduardo Coudet is in dire need of. There are a few negatives to this move as Iturbe is not likely to debut for at least a couple of games. These late transfers into the season usually take a few weeks for the player to sort everything out and get adjusted.

While the move does suggest that Eduardo Coudet has his job secured regardless of the team’s dreadful start, a lot can happen in the time that Iturbe gets ready to debut. What if the Xolos lose three games in a row? It is very tough to imagine that Coudet will still have his job after only obtaining a point after seven games. The move is an odd one based on the current state of the team, but it does suggest that the front office will be patient with Coudet and sees promise with the team. On the other hand, it can also be a desperate punt to try to get the team going after a disastrous start. Regardless, Juan Manuel Iturbe is an exciting transfer for a team like Club Tijuana and it will be very interesting to see what impact the Argentine-born Paraguayan international will have on the border city team.

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Francisco Velasco
Francisco, 21, Chula Vista area, Journalism student at Southwestern College. I have been a Padres fan all my life, did most of the series previews and recaps in the Padres' 2016 season for EVT. Now I focus more on the Tijuana Xolos soccer team, get press passes for every home game and write consistently about the team for EVT.

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