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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

Gold Cup
 By Tom Marshall

Hirving Lozano's move to PSV should benefit him, his new club and Mexico

SOCHI, Russia -- Hirving Lozano was confirmed as a PSV Eindhoven player on Monday, ending over a year of speculation about the 21-year-old Pachuca winger's future. And the news that PSV will pay a considerable fee to lure him is a relief, even if it isn't as headline-grabbing as some of the clubs with whom he had been linked.

From the interest of Manchester United 12 months ago to the bizarre story last week -- "confirmed" by former Mexico coach Miguel Herrera -- that Lozano was on the brink of signing for Manchester City, Lozano has been linked to a host of European clubs. But PSV is a nice fit.

It's not that Lozano won't one day be good enough to play for one of Europe's elite teams, but he's not there yet. PSV can be an ideal bedding ground and eventual springboard if he can adapt to life in Europe, which is never a guarantee.

That said, PSV is not a small club, nor will Lozano find a lack of competition for playing time. The Dutch giant boasts a 35,000-capacity stadium and is almost always in the Champions League, though they will miss out in 2017-18. They needed to make a splash in the transfer market after a disappointing season, and the news that Hector Moreno has signed for Roma wasn't seen as a positive statement by fans. It's hoped that the news of Lozano's arrival will temporarily help to smooth things over.

For Lozano, having Andres Guardado on hand to help him settle in will be an important factor, and the fact that PSV has a history of signing Mexican players such as Carlos Salcido, Moreno and Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez is helpful. While Lozano is married and has two children, he's just 21 years old, and even when you listen to him in interviews or talking to the press after games, it's clear the youngster needs guidance in certain aspects of his game. PSV can provide that and help him eventually become a regular starter for Mexico.

The timing is also good. Last season was mixed for Lozano. He won a CONCACAF Champions league winners' medal but also suffered a nasty-looking injury and faced some concerns about playacting to win free kicks; teams in Liga MX were targeting the rapid winger for some rough treatment.

A Mexico City native, Lozano scored the winner for Pachuca against Club America in Estadio Azteca on his debut in February 2014, and from there he's enjoyed almost a perfect ascent. There was a league title in the 2016 Clausura, an international call-up in February 2016, and now a move to Europe. It's been textbook so far, and he's been improving the entire time, especially in the goal-scoring department.

Lozano is still raw and could improve his physicality, but the move to PSV has so much upside.

For teams that loosely play a 4-3-3 formation, or at least with only one No. 9 -- something that's true of both Pachuca and PSV under coach Phillip Cocu -- the wingers naturally have a greater responsibility to contribute goals. Lozano has done that with Pachuca, bolstered by the fact that the right-footed winger has often played on the left wing and has been able to use his pace and directness to get a look at goal.

In his first (European-length) season as a regular, Lozano netted seven goals in 35 games in 2014-15, then 12 goals in 40 matches in 2015-16, and 10 goals in 30 games in the 2016-17 campaign. It bodes well.

"Lozano would normally come into a 4-3-3 on the left side, where PSV had problems last season," Dutch journalist Jeroen Elshoff wrote via email to ESPN FC, adding that there will be significant pressure due to Lozano's high price tag and because Cocu's system does transform into a 5-3-2 in European competition.

"As long as Guardado is there, he will take care of [Lozano] as the leader he is in Eindhoven," Elshoff wrote.

But there are certainly areas to improve for "Chucky," a nickname Lozano first received due to his penchant for jumping out from under beds to surprise roommates on road trips. Lozano hasn't had a memorable performance at the international level against top opponents, which is a concern. He's been too easily bullied by quality full-backs, and while he is reasonably strong for his size, he can be pushed off the ball.

In Liga MX, where play isn't overly physical, that was never a huge concern, but it's something he will need to work on if he is to succeed in the Netherlands. The winger, however, has the ability to improve. You'd back him to become a very good player for PSV.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.


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