The generation of Mexican players who are just on the cusp of nearing the end of their international careers has been some of the best ever to suit up for El Tri. Javier Hernandez is the country's all-time leading goal scorer, while Guillermo Ochoa is one of the best-ever keepers in the history of Concacaf. Even Carlos Vela, who isn't quite as beloved by fans of the national team, has had a stellar club career over in Europe and in MLS with Los Angeles FC.
But the player who might most be remembered from this generation might be one of the more unassuming characters for Mexico. Andres Guardado has been a steady hand for Mexico throughout the years and has the chance to become the most-capped player for Mexico.
The 32-year-old needs just 18 more caps to beat Claudio Suárez's record of 177 games for Mexico. And as Guardado showed during the most recent Gold Cup triumph for Mexico, he is still integral to the side and should continue to be a presence in Tata Martino's setup.
FloFC’s Concacaf Legends series continues today with a look at the stellar career of Andres Guardado, one of the best-ever players to lace it up for Mexico.
Birthplace: Guadalajara, Mexico
Years active: 2005-current
Clubs: Atlas, Deportivo La Coruña, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, PSV, Real Betis
Notable Achievements: Concacaf Gold Cup champion (three times), Eredivisie champions (two times), AD, VI Eredivisie Player of the Year (2014-2015) Segunda División champion, appearances at four World Cups, appearances at two Confederations Cups, appearances at two Copa Americas
Guardado joined local side Atlas to begin his youth career and eventually made his debut with Los Zorros as an 18-year-old left-sided winger. Quickly becoming a mainstay in the side, Guardado was then handed his Mexican debut later in 2005 under Ricardo Lavolpe. Lavolpe thought highly enough of Guardado to take the 19-year-old to 2006 World Cup in Germany, giving Guardado one appearance in the 2-1 loss to Argentina in the round of 16.
When Hugo Sánchez took over for Lavolpe, Guardado quickly became a regular starter for El Tri. In 2007, Guardado appeared in both the Gold Cup and the Copa America, a rare instance of a player participating in two international tournaments in the same summer. But as Guardado's stature was clearly on the rise, he moved to Deportivo La Coruña in Spain, shortly after helping Mexico finish third in the Copa America.
Though Guardado might have had his sights set on a bigger club on the world stage, he hit the ground running for Deportivo, notching five goals and five assists in his first La Liga campaign. When Deportivo were relegated in 2011, Guardado even stuck around to help the club right back up, moving to Valencia after getting Deportivo promoted.
His time with Los Ches wasn't quite as fruitful, as the winger spent much of his time playing as a left-back. Halfway through his second season with Valencia, Guardado went to Germany on loan with Bayer Leverkusen, a move that did not work out well for Guardado. After just half a season in Germany, Guardado went back out on loan, this time with PSV in the Netherlands.
It was there that Guardado got his club career back on track, moving from a wide position to a central midfield role. While on loan that first year, Guardado was named the Player of the Season in the Eredivisie by two different publications, winning the league in the process. Quickly becoming a fan favorite, Guardado made his move permanent and helped PSV retain their title the next year.
After one more season in the Netherlands, Guardado returned to Spain to play for Real Betis, helping the Seville side punch above their weight over the past two seasons. During that time, Guardado has helped captain Los Verdiblancos while retaining his role as a center midfielder.
Guardado might not have played for the best of the best in Europe, but his overall solid club career has been overshadowed by his continued presence with El Tri over the past 14 years. The midfielder has played in just about every major tournament that Mexico has participated in since his debut, surviving every coaching change and upheaval that the national team has gone through.
And when Guardado has been shuttled around from position to position at the club level, he has been able to adapt his game at the international level, too. And now he's playing the all-important role of captain for Mexico under the guidance of Tata Martino. As Mexico looks to usher in the next generation of stars, Guardado seems poised to continue to play an integral role in the Mexican national team.
And with 160 caps, he is just 18 short of tying Suárez's record of 177 with Mexico. At his point, even though he's about to turn 33 years old, Guardado seems likely to break the record, as Mexico gears up for qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. It would be a just reward for a player who has so valiantly worn the colors for Mexico over the course of his stellar career.
Even if he remains second to Suárez in caps, Guardado will forever be remembered as one of the most integral players in the country's history, earning the right to be one of the most legendary players in Concacaf's lore.