- Diego Lainez, at only 18, has won four full Mexico caps
- He’s the big hope for Mexican fans dreaming of glory in Poland
- The Real Betis starlet is as modest as they come
Diego Lainez is a name on everyone’s lips in Mexico. Aged only 18, he has become one of the best-known players in a country that is desperately seeking a new footballing idol.
Signed by Spain’s Real Betis a few months ago, the attacking midfielder will have the hopes of an entire nation on his shoulders at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019. Though aware of the challenge he faces, Lainez is nothing if not modest, as he confirmed to FIFA.com: “I’m just another player, here to do his bit.”
Lainez played every minute of Mexico’s four matches at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, scoring their 100th goal in the competition against eventual champions England.
Embracing the pressure
When Lainez made his debut at just 16, Mexico knew this was no ordinary player. His footballing mentor was none other than the legendary Ricardo La Volpe, the man who nurtured other leading lights such as Rafael Marquez and Andres Guardado. And his club was America, the most successful in Mexico, where the need to win is arguably greater than anywhere else in the country.
Having been in the spotlight from the very start, the young Mexican has grown used to it, as he explained: “I’ve learned to live with it. America is the best team in my country and you’re always in the limelight. Personally I think it’s great and it all comes down to how you handle it. I like it.”
Despite his young age, the Betis No22 has a very clear idea of what he wants to achieve: to make his mark in the game: “It’s my life. I train, which is what I like doing most, and then I spend time at home with my family. There’s nothing I enjoy more. I hardly follow the news or social media.”
A chance to shine
After finding his feet in his debut season at Betis, where he made 16 appearances and scored one goal, Lainez said he is happy and ready for the challenge of leading Mexico in Poland.
|Italy||Thursday, 23 May||Gdynia||18:00|
|Japan||Sunday, 26 May||Gdynia||15:30|
|Ecuador||Wednesday, 29 May||Gdynia||18:00|
Though aware of the scale of the task, Lainez is not overwhelmed by it.
“It’s a very hard group, with teams that did really well in their respective qualifying competitions,” he said. “I like those challenges, though. We know the teams we have to play and the ones we might have to face in the future. We’re ready to go to the World Cup and be at our best.”
The man who wears the No10 jersey for El Mini Tri and has already won four full international caps is confident both he and his team can perform: “We’ve got a very good side and we know what we’re capable of. I know that there’s added responsibility on me because I play in Europe, but I don’t feel like I’m bigger or smaller than anyone. I’m just another member of the team and like everyone else, I’ll be doing my bit so we can achieve our objective, which is to have a great World Cup.”