After weeks of reports, Rodolfo Pizarro, the three-time Liga MX champion and two-time Concacaf Champions League winner, officially became an Inter Miami player on Monday. The 26-year-old Mexico international leaves current Liga MX champions Monterrey, joining the MLS expansion team as a Designated Player.
The latest in a recent line of Liga MX players that have made the move to MLS, Pizarro will immediately become one of the focal points in the Miami attack. And there will be plenty resting on his shoulders. Inter Miami have high expectations and will aim for a strong inaugural season under new manager Diego Alonso, Pizarro’s former coach at Monterrey.
Does Pizarro have what it takes to become the big star that Inter Miami have been searching for? Let’s first take at what he can provide on the field...
What Pizarro brings to MLS
Playmaking is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Pizarro. Whether it be as a winger or midfielder, the attack-minded player has regularly done a superb job of linking up with teammates in the final third through his accurate short passing.
His added flair and dribbling also make him a threat in one-on-one situations. Formed at the well-respected Pachuca youth academy, the technically gifted figure has thrived in Liga MX as a dynamic risk-taker who can flourish in a number of attacking positions. With the Mexico national team, he has tended to play as a winger who cuts inside and provides distribution to El Tri’s strikers. All that said, Pizarro is at his very best as a No. 10.
In a central role, he has impeccable vision as a playmaker who is able to produce well-timed passes and runs that can kickstart a number of forward plays. His finishing isn’t bad either. Although Pizarro might not end up troubling the likes of fellow-Mexicans Carlos Vela and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez for the MLS Golden Boot in 2020, he will be expected to chip in with a few goals from his advanced position.
Pizarro’s new responsibilities in Miami
Is Pizarro the marquee name that Inter Miami have been looking for? Ahead of their upcoming season, the team has been on the hunt and linked with world-class players such as Edinson Cavani and David Silva. Pizarro may not quite, in a global sense, be on the level of thosee names, but after watching his accomplishments at the Liga MX level, there’s ample reason to believe he's capable of steering the ship for Inter Miami.
If you ask fans of Monterrey about Pizarro, they may not be quite so full of praise for his recent performances. The Mexican has looked less than his best over the last several months. Inconsistent performances became the norm in the second half of 2019 as he struggled to live up to his previously high standards. Although Monterrey went on to win last season’s title, it would be a stretch to say that Pizarro was a vital figure in claiming that championship.
In a more substantial role for Inter Miami, Pizarro will have to ditch these inconsistencies. As the most high-profile player currently on the roster, he will have an immense amount of responsibility and influence over whether their debut season in MLS is ultimately considered a success.
The implications of another Liga MX headliner in MLS
If an MLS team can sign the most expensive transfer from within Liga MX, any player from the league is now up for grabs. Pizarro follows swiftly in the footsteps of other recruits from Liga MX, like Alan Pulido, Edison Flores, Lucas Cavallini and Lucas Zelarayan, showing that MLS clubs are now winning over some of the best and brightest from south of the border.
In a battle to steal attention away from Liga MX, it makes perfect sense as to why MLS is courting players from within that league. The addition of Mexican megastar Chicharito from Sevilla plays a key part in this, too. Were it not for the LA Galaxy or another potential MLS team, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker would have likely gone back to Liga MX at some point in the near future.
Intrigued by the quality of life, high wages and an MLS style of play that has continued to improve, more noteworthy Liga MX talents like Pizarro are beginning to make the move north. If this continues, the perceived disparities between Liga MX/MLS and the never-ending discussion of whether the “gap is closing” may finally come to an end.
Nonetheless, it’s early days in this transition. For MLS the next target must be ending Liga MX's 11 consecutive Concacaf Champions League titles.
As for Inter Miami and Pizarro, we wait with bated breath to see what they can accomplish once their season kicks off at the home of 2019 Supporters' Shield winners LAFC on March 1.
Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things Mexican soccer. He has covered Liga MX, the Mexican national team and Mexicans abroad for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast.