Young Mexican Santiago Palacios looking to make mark on Eredivisie
The Dutch first division has traditionally been kind to Mexican players. From Hector Moreno's early days in AZ Alkmaar, to Carlos Salcido and Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez at PSV and now Andres Guardado (PSV) and Jesus "Tecatito" Corona (Twente), it has been by far the best destination in Europe for Mexican footballing exports.
The next one hoping to make that illustrious list is Roda JC Kerkrade's Santiago Palacios.
Now, even regular followers of the Mexican national team and soccer in general may well be thinking, "Santiago who?"
Unlike Guardado and "Tecatito," Palacios isn't a household name in Mexico. There was no huge deal made when he moved to Europe and most El Tri fans have never seen him play. But depending on how things go in the near future, that could be about to change swiftly.
There was a gentle ripple in the Mexican press when 24-year-old Palacios signed on the dotted line for Roda JC Kerkrade from third division outfit De Treffers -- where he was a scoring phenomenon averaging above a goal a game in his last season -- this past June and that will swell should he make his mark on the league.
And that is exactly from forward Palacios is attempting to do.
"I'm doing well," he told ESPNFC over the phone from the Netherlands last week. "I'm adapting to the club and the level of play."
He added: "Naturally the squad is big -- 28 players in the first team -- and the competition is steep. I have to prove myself to show (the coach) I want to play and be important."
Palacios' path has been radically different from the Mexicans before him in the Eredivisie. He had been part of Pumas' youth academy, before packing his bags and heading to De Treffers to study a degree in International Business and Management Studies and play third division soccer.
He'd even been training with Pumas' first team under Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti, but a coaching change blocked opportunities and he began to consider his options.
With a European Union passport -- Palacios' mother is from France -- opening doors to the Old Continent, the then 20-year-old took an alternative career decision, heading to the Netherlands as an un-established, young Mexican hopeful.
"I came alone," explained the articulate Palacios, speaking in Spanish. "I packed my bag and came to Europe on an adventure."
The mediapunta -- attacking midfielder/No.10 -- says his main attributes are his vision, finishing and ability to drop back and start moves from midfield. The tall (1.85 meter) Mexican made an impact for newly-promoted Roda in the preseason, but didn't see playing time in the opening game of the season against Heracles.
Palacios communicates mainly in English in the Netherlands, but understands Dutch and is concentrating on dominating the language in the near future. When he does, he'll speak a total of four languages -- he grew up speaking French and Spanish.
But while Palacios was raised in Cuernavaca, Morelos with a dose of European culture from his mother and visited family in France occasionally during summers, it was still difficult to adapt to life in the Netherlands, as former Mexico international Salcido has attested to.
"Going on vacations is not the same as living there," he stressed. "I didn't understand a word of Dutch. You have to have clear objectives and not stop for a minimal problem. The winter is very harsh, but you can't get dragged down. With passion and clear objectives, everything is much easier. "
And so far, Palacios' plan is on course. He has finished his degree and now the next stage of his European dream is to debut at Roda and have an influence on the Eredivisie.
"Everything has gone well and four years (since moving), I had interest from many teams in the second and first division and now I'm here in Roda," he summarized. "It's all worked out like a dream, or almost like a dream because I haven't yet made my debut."
That could come as early as Saturday against De Graafschap.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.