Arellano follows family line
© AFP

Guadalajara versus America is undisputedly the biggest of all Mexican clásicos, the match that every football fan in the country, regardless of their loyalties, awaits with baited breath. This climactic encounter has thrown up a host of legendary figures and fans' favourites over the years, and the game two weeks ago may well have done the same in the shape of Guadalajara forward Omar Arellano.

Established footballing wisdom suggests that great players save their best for the big occasion. If that is indeed the case, the up-and-coming front-man's decisive two-goal display in Chivas' 2-1 win over their fierce rivals hints at a bright future for both club and country.

Genes and traditions combine
Though the young striker has been a Rojiblanca squad member less than a year, his surname is far from unknown to the club's fans. His grandfather Raul was a mainstay of the Chivas' side that dominated Mexican football during the 1950s and 60s.

Meanwhile, Omar's father, also named Omar, started out as an attacker with the Tapatío outfit, before going on to become a solid defensive midfielder at a number of Mexican clubs. Both father and grandfather represented El Tricolor during the course of their careers.

Curiously, Omar junior did not take his first steps in the professional game with his beloved Chivas. Having followed his father to Pachuca, where he wound down his playing career, young Omar also joined Los Tuzos. It was there he made his first-division debut, playing in an attacking right-wing role, and would go on to show glimpses of his talent without nailing down a regular first-team spot.

But the Arellano family heritage would prove too great to ignore, and in 2007 Omar signed on the dotted line for Chivas, pulling on the fabled red-and-white striped jersey as his father and grandfather had done before him. "I'm fulfilling a dream," said the then 19-year-old, whose transfer nevertheless went largely unnoticed by a Guadalajara following yet to see evidence of his ability.

Change of scene the trigger
Arellano would go about changing that in double-quick time. Coach Efrain Flores, impressed by the youngster's training-ground performances, duly gave him his chance, enabling Arellano to make 23 appearances over the 2007-2008 campaign. Though lacking an element of consistency, his speed and dribbling ability made him an important part of the Rojiblancos' attacking arsenal, particularly when used as an impact substitute.

Then, in the build-up to the Apertura 2008 campaign, Guadalajara fans were shocked by the news that centre-forward and club icon Omar Bravo had signed for Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna. The country's sports writers went into overdrive speculating on Bravo's successor, linking Chivas with multi-million pound swoops and some of the biggest-name forwards in the Mexican game.

There were to be no such signings, however, and in a surprise move the club instead chose to hand the No9 jersey to their substitute right-winger, Omar Arellano. More surprisingly still was the fans' discovery, in the first match of the season, that the 21-year-old had not only taken Bravo's shirt, but his position at the focal point of the Chivas' front-line.

The newly-deployed central striker immediately took to his new role, netting in his first competitive match, another Mexican clásico against Cruz Azul, and droving the opposing defence to distraction with his speed of movement and ability to lose his marker. Lauded by fans who saw in him their new hero, an untimely injury in his next encounter sent him to the sidelines for over a month.

Once back to full fitness, Arellano gradually rediscovered his form and sharpness. He would prove vital in Chivas' fine progress in the Copa Sudamericana, even opening the scoring at Buenos Aires' mythical Estadio Monumental in his side's 2-1 quarter-final first-leg win over River Plate on 22 October, before following that up four days later with his decisive brace against America. All further proof that he is a man for the big occasion.

And while the road to the very top is long, Arellano appears to have what it takes to go the distance. Again in keeping with family tradition, he made his senior Mexico debut on 11 October against Jamaica, not that this rapid rise has gone to his head.

"It was a lovely thing to happen, but it's behind me now. I've got to keep working hard and keep my feet on the ground. I'm realistic, I know I've got a lot to learn," says the level-headed goal-getter, a sentiment of which his fellow members of the Arellano footballing dynasty would no doubt approve.