MEXICO CITY -- Mexico coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino has reminded his players that participating in the CONCACAF Nations League is at times "like returning to being amateurs" and urged them to make the most of every opportunity with the national team.
El Tri needed to extend its dressing room in order to accommodate their traveling party ahead of their 5-1 win at Bermuda on Friday. And both Martino and former United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann have questioned how much the U.S. and Mexico have to gain from the new competition, in which they are forced to play against lower-ranked nations.
But Martino on Monday reminded his players that they also started from humble beginnings.
"I was saying to the players ahead of the game the other day that it's almost like returning to being amateurs," said Martino ahead of El Tri's match against Panama at Estadio Azteca on Tuesday. "It's like playing in the youth teams of Pachuca or any team in Mexico. It's not exactly the same but there are some similarities. And that's the positive perspective we try to find."
Martino went on to state that a player like Hirving Lozano is going from very different realities with club side Napoli to coming back to play in CONCACAF competition.
"It's also true that if we look at Chucky [Lozano], 20 days ago he played against Juventus, which today together with Inter [and Lozano's Napoli] are the three most important teams in Italy and the most important games," he continued. "A week before or after he debuted in the Champions League against reigning champion Liverpool in front of a full stadium and then he comes to this reality, which is what it is and [the players] are aware of what it is."
"Sometimes you have to put yourself in the players' and the coaches' position to see how to manage this type of situation," added Martino. "On one hand, let [the players] know that it's here that we have to compete and that it's here that they started and to not forget about where they are from, but also to not forget about their current situation and look for a balance between the two things."
Continued Martino: "It's also been asked what the point is of bringing in players from Europe for this type of game. It's not only about the game, it's about how else we can shape a team, showing them videos, training sessions on the field. I don't bring them only to compete, but also to train so they start to get the footballing idea. If we only brought them for the important games we'd never be able to shape a team."
After beating Bermuda in last week, Martino's team will take on a Panama side that hasn't lost to Mexico by more than a single goal in any of its last 13 meetings.
"There's a big difference between a team that played a World Cup and one that was a long way from getting to one," Martino said. "Panama has very good players. I know some of them from my time at Atlanta United."
Martino practically ruled out Jesus "Tecatito" Corona from the game due to injury and added that while he wouldn't be surprised European scouts are watching Leon's Jose Juan Macias and America's Sebastian Cordova, it's too early to say they'll be moving to big clubs.
"It's probable that there are scouts taking them into consideration, but I'd also say that the big teams in Europe will have their eye on over 100 footballers. ... That doesn't mean they'll buy them," he said.
"If they are being looked at by Benfica or Manchester United, or others, the players should keep trying to establish themselves, earn attention and try to go [to Europe] as complete as possible for a 10-year career [in Europe]."