Since its inception, no side has appeared in three consecutive FIFA Club World Cups, a goal that Monterrey set as their objective at the start of this season’s CONCACAF Champions League.
With the continental competition having now reached the semi-final stage, Los Rayados remain well on course to achieve their unique objective. Last week the Mexicans pulled off a notable 2-1 away win in the first leg of their tie with Los Angeles Galaxy, a result sealed by Aldo De Nigris’s injury-time strike.
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com just a few hours before the return leg on home soil, the star striker spoke of his hopes of a third straight Champions League success and a return to the world stage.
A scorer in both of Monterrey’s previous FIFA Club World Cup adventures, the 29-year-old Mexico international is excited at the prospect of a return to the global club finals, to be held this year in Morocco. First of all, though, they have to finish the job off against the Galaxy, as he explained: “The first thing we need to do is make the final, which is crucial and won’t be easy at all. Once we do that, we can then go for that third world finals appearance, which would be a historic achievement for the club.”
Winning those titles and taking part in the Club World Cup twice is the biggest thing this team has achieved in the international arena. We want to go back there.
Monterrey owe their narrow but important advantage over the Americans to the centre-forward’s exquisite late strike. Receiving a superb headed pass from rookie Luis Madrigal inside the box, De Nigris controlled the ball with his right thigh and hooked it in with his left foot, giving his side, for the third season running, an edge going into the semi-final return leg.
“Winning those titles and taking part in the Club World Cup twice is the biggest thing this team has achieved in the international arena,” said De Nigris. “We want to go back there and we’re just a step away from the final. We know how much that means.”
So does Monterrey coach Victor Manuel Vucetich, who rested most of his first-choice players for Sunday’s Clausura defeat to Toluca, a decision De Nigris is wholly in agreement with: “It’s the coach’s prerogative. We’re there to serve the team, and he said he was putting us on the bench because we had an important game on Wednesday, which I understood perfectly. You get your orders and you have to follow them.”
Global score to settle
Monterrey’s sixth-highest goalscorer of all time, De Nigris is understandably eager to return to the FIFA Club World Cup. On their last appearance, at Japan 2012, Los Rayados matched the best ever performance by a CONCACAF side in finishing third, a significant improvement on the fifth place they managed the previous year.
Should they make Morocco, however, De Nigris will not be content with another third place: “I don’t know if we’ll be under any obligation to improve on that, but that’s what we’ll be setting out to do, no doubt about it.”
In explaining that he and his team-mates felt they could have gone even further in Japan last year, the talismanic goalgetter said: “I think we acquitted ourselves well but we made mistakes against Chelsea in our second game and paid for them. The good thing is that we know how to play the world’s top teams now and how expensive errors can be. We’ve learned the lesson and we need to keep on improving.”
Returning to the immediate task in hand, De Nigris stressed the importance of finishing off the job the Mexicans started in Los Angeles: “We came away with a good result, but the tie’s only just begun really. We need to go out totally focused and use our heads, just like we did there. That’s the only way for us to carry on thinking big.”
Having had a taste of the high life in each of the last two seasons, De Nigris is determined not to pass up this latest opportunity to mix it with the best.