Andrés Guardado: the eternal Mexico great who’s a World Cup record holder
The 2022 AS América Award goes to Mexican Andrés Guardado - a player who is one of just eight men to have gone to five World Cups.
Antonio Carbajal, Lothar Matthäus, Rafael Márquez, Gianluigi Buffon, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Guillermo Ochoa. They are the only players who, together with Andrés Guardado, have had the privilege of going to five men’s World Cups. The Mexican midfielder reached the figure in Qatar, writing his name into the footballing history books - if indeed it wasn’t there already.
Guardado’s career - which has lasted 17 years and counting - has been an almost perfect storm. Spain saw him grow at Deportivo La Coruña and Valencia, and is witnessing what is perhaps his LaLiga swansong at Real Betis, where he’s an important figure. For a long while, Guardado’s sights had been set on making it to his fifth World Cup - and he bore an ear-to-ear smile when he started against Argentina in the second of Mexico’s group-stage games in Qatar. Now, a future filled with yet more challenges awaits him, not least the chance to achieve big things with Betis before the final chapter of his brilliant career has been written. He was never just any old winger or an everyday full-back; nor, in his present iteration, is he an open-and-shut central midfielder. He has always been synonymous with drive and, now, leadership and experience. Guardado is what football’s all about.
Dubbed ‘El Principito’ - ‘the Little Prince’ - Guardado first appeared on the World Cup scene in 2006. At that point, he played for Atlas in Liga MX, and was called up for his tournament debut by then-Mexico boss Ricardo La Volpe. He was just 19. Within months, he had caught the eye of Deportivo president Augusto César Lendoiro, and arrived in LaLiga to join the Galician club. His long, curly locks and his measured crosses from the left became his hallmark, as he set about making an indelible mark on the game. Throughout a career that has been a frenzy of positional changes, he has developed and adapted. His game has evolved in so many ways. And all the while, he has been a constant in the Mexico fold. He went to the next World Cup as one of El Tri’s lesser lights and with question marks surrounding his physical shape, but four years later there could be no doubts: he was an integral part of the team that competed in Brazil.
“I could never have imagined that I’d play at five World Cups”
Guardado continued on his history-making path at Russia in 2018. His energy was not quite so boundless by that point, and it was certainly no given that he’d fulfil his dream of making it to Qatar. But he did, albeit the 36-year-old was no longer a central figure, and left the Middle East burdened with the sadness of having failed to earn another last-16 place. “I could never have imagined that I’d play at five World Cups,” he said before Mexico’s final group game, against Saudi Arabia. “It’s something I’ll never forget and will always be proud about. Obviously, when this all ends, you’re left with some very special memories. I’ve worked tooth and nail throughout my career at the highest level, and that has allowed me to be here. Everything I’ve achieved comes down to the effort that you have to put in.” Those were the words of a legend who is now the deserving recipient of the 2022 AS América Award.
During his career, Guardado has had the opportunity to showcase his exquisite talent on several stages. He went from being a winger at Deportivo to a full-back at Valencia, and at Bayern Leverkusen, too. In the Netherlands, the PSV fans still remember him fondly. After all, his magic is not something you forget in a hurry. In Eindhoven, he showed exactly what he could do as a central midfielder. This was Guardado at full maturity: a player who manages the spaces and is his team’s captain and leader. When he’s given the nod by head coach Manuel Pellegrini, we still see that from him at Betis. He doesn’t intend to play international football anymore, but if you’re taking that as a sign that he’s ready to step away from the game altogether, not so fast. He’s under contract in Seville until summer 2023, and nobody is ruling out more nights of glory for him in the green and white shirt, having already been a part of the team that lifted last season’s Copa del Rey.
“Mourinho shouted my name and asked me for my shirt”
Guardado is a player who leaves smiles on faces wherever he goes. He’s also a player who attracts praise from all manner of quarters. “José Mourinho shouted my name and asked me for my shirt,” the veteran revealed in October, after a Europa League clash between Betis and Mourinho’s Roma. The Portuguese wanted to applaud Guardado for what he has achieved in his career. It’s a career that’s still going strong; a career that has seen him play at five World Cups and earn admiration across the globe.
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