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Step up! Guardado demands change in Mexico

ESPN FC's Ale Moreno breaks down Carlos Vela's rocky relationship with the Mexico national team after announcing he won't play in the 2019 Gold Cup.
USMNT's Gregg Berhalter praises the Mexican federation for its success in CONCACAF and says the organization has set the benchmark for MLS and U.S. Soccer.

Mexico captain Andres Guardado wants club owners and directors in the country to change their vision for the long-term benefit of the national team.

The Real Betis midfielder slammed the way the game is run in Mexico and wants Liga MX clubs to focus more on giving younger players more opportunities.

"There are a lot of things that go on in Mexico that don't go on in any other places in the world, and then we hope the national team or Mexican football makes that step up," said Guardado in an interview with ESPN's Futbol Picante. "I've said it many times, they always demand that the players take that step."

Guardado's comments come at a time when a debate has opened in Mexico over the quality of youth production and lack of first-team opportunities in Liga MX for young Mexicans, following two defeats and poor performances in the opening two games of the Under-20 World Cup in Poland.

Liga MX rules currently allow up to nine non-homegrown players -- which are usually foreign -- per squad and there is a young player rule in place, but there is criticism about how many young players are given regular minutes.

"I'll repeat again, when will the directors take the necessary steps for Mexican football? The director that backs the youngsters, with clear regulations, with relegation, those things that go on there," Guardado said.

When is the CONCACAF Gold Cup?
Full Gold Cup fixtures schedule

The last two teams that were relegated from Liga MX were able to pay a penalty to remain in the league, which will expand to 19 teams next season with the promotion of Atletico San Luis.

The 32-year-old Guardado was an important figure behind the creation of a players' association in Mexico to fight for better conditions. And it appears free agency in Liga MX will soon come into being, with the league announcing a new transfer regime earlier this month.

Mexico's government watchdog agency opened a probe into the transfer practices of Liga MX clubs in November last year to determine whether they violate Mexico's federal law on competitive practices.

Guardado also defended 18-year-old Betis and Mexico teammate Diego Lainez, who started brightly in Spain but found minutes hard to come by later in the season.

"They are drastic in their criticism, he scored a goal against Rennes and they were saying 'he has to start every game,'" said Guardado. "He misses or doesn't score and 'he's not going to play and shouldn't play.'

"Calm down, he's 18, he will learn, he'll mature in a lot of ways and he's got the potential to be a very important player for Betis in the future."

Guardado is part of Mexico's Gold Cup squad, which is currently in Mexico City preparing for warm-up games against Venezuela (June 5) and Ecuador (June 9).

There was further bad news for Mexico on Tuesday, with defender Carlos Salcedo admitting his Gold Cup participation is also in doubt.

"It is a fact that I've got a hit, some irritation in my knee and I'll have to be evaluated when I go to the national team [on Thursday]," said Salcedo in an event to announce his new charity in Guadalajara.

Tigres defender Salcedo missed the first leg of the Liga MX final against Leon, but came on for the last 13 minutes of the second leg. He said Mexico coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino is aware of his situation.

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