With 43 goals in 86 international appearances, no one would dispute that Jared Borgetti is a figurehead and role model for the Mexican national team. His country's all-time leading scorer and a veteran of two FIFA World Cups™, the 34-year-old Monterrey striker now finds himself back in the Mexico squad ahead of their South Africa 2010 qualifying campaign.
Not even the player himself could have imagined this a few months back, when he announced his retirement from international football to make way for a promising new generation of Mexican strikers. However, his rich vein of form with Los Rayados so impressed Jesus Ramirez that the outgoing caretaker Tricolor coach convinced him to reconsider.
Enjoying the moment
Asked whether he really envisaged this recall to the Mexico squad, Borgetti replies: "No I honestly didn't. I believe there's a good crop of players in Mexico, and I genuinely thought they would make up the senior team squad for the World Cup qualifiers. I felt that would be for the best, but Chucho (Ramirez) spoke to me and asked if I could help him. Naturally, I was delighted. Representing Mexico is hugely significant and a source of pride."
For all of that, the prolific marksman does not yet want to contemplate a possible participation is South Africa in two years time. "I have to be realistic. I may or may not still be playing in 2010 or may be playing but not at a good level." For those reasons he prefers to focus on the present. "Reality is what's happening to you today, and nothing else. But I'm realistic and am not going to say I'll make it that far."
Despite his cautious words, this native of Sinaloa seems to have plenty left to give. After a serious injury and a troubled spell with Cruz Azul, the front-man found his form again at Monterrey, who he helped to the semi-finals of this year's Clausura championship. So does he think it's his attributes as a penalty-box predator that have helped him remain effective at 34?
"That could be the case," he says. "I don't think there are too many players like me in Mexico or even further afield. The penalty-area specialist is less and less prevalent and today's forwards are a different breed. However, I believe you should always have a forceful No9 who can finish a move for you with one touch and movement."
The first task facing Borgetti and Co is to get past Belize, who El Tri face in their opening South Africa 2010 qualifier on 15 June. Despite the obvious gap in standing between the two countries, the striker insists the team cannot take anything for granted. "Of course not. We don't know a great deal about Belize, but what's important here is what we do. That will be our starting point going into these games. We want to play as well as we can and win the match, and if the goals flow, then all the better."
In August, Sven Goran Eriksson will officially take over as coach of the Tricolor. Borgetti has yet to speak with his new boss, but he is familiar with his methods having been at Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League when the Swede was in charge of the English national team. "He's a coach with a great track record. He was a household name when he came to England and big things were expected of him as national team coach. In the end, he didn't manage to achieve those aims and was replaced, but ," he says.
On the subject of Mexico's future, the player is also optimistic about the prospects of Arsenal's Carlos Vela who, at just 19, is considered by many to be a possible future replacement for Borgetti in the Mexico front line. "He's a very talented young lad, and his time abroad playing in Spain has stood him in good stead. Now, he's going to play in England, where the football is very tough, direct and attack-minded. I expect him to learn a lot there. Hopefully it will go well for him and he can develop the qualities [you need in English football]."
And what does the future hold for Borgetti himself? Amid the doubts and certainties, the player insists his primary objective is to enjoy the moment. "I don't know what I'll do when I retire, but I'm sure it will be something football-related, such as coaching or administration. However, I don't want to think about that yet. I'm still a player and I'm very happy with that for now. Later we'll see what happens." All of Mexico will be hoping it remains like that for some time to come and that the goals keep flowing for the evergreen No9.