Not so fast.
Mexico national team manager Tata Martino cast doubt over rumors of LAFC forward Carlos Vela being picked for the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Thanks to a 2-0 win over Canada on Sunday, El Tri booked one of Concacaf’s two tickets from this month’s qualifying tournament in Guadalajara.
While Olympic men’s soccer is an Under-23 tournament, countries can bring along three overage players. Vela, 32, would undoubtedly lift Mexico's attacking outlook, though hasn’t played internationally since July 2018 at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
“It would seem illogical to me to call on a player who does not have full disposition to play for a national team in the broadest sense,” Martino said before Mexico face Costa Rica on Tuesday. “What I've said about Carlos is that when a player is available for a national team, he is available for all of its iterations, not just one.”
Vela has 19 goals and nine assists in 72 senior-team caps, but has expressed that his international duties have come to a close as the next generation of talent looks to make its own mark. He first featured for El Tri in 2007, back when he was at Premier League side Arsenal.
Martino added, however, that it’s ultimately not his call over who Mexico brings to Tokyo. Rather, that responsibility falls to U-23 head coach Jaime Lozano.
"I'm not Jaime's boss," Martino, who led Atlanta United during the 2017 and 2018 MLS seasons, said. "I don't give him any orders. In any case we'll have conversations about soccer."
While largely putting his national team career in the rearview mirror, Vela has found incredible success at LAFC. He earned Landon Donovan MLS MVP honors in 2019, and has 52 goals and 29 assists through 66 matches.
As for Vela heading to Tokyo this summer? Early signs are he won’t be one of Mexico’s three overage players.