Aventuras Américas | Part 89 | Pumas #5: 50 Years A Football Manager

Pumas UNAM fans had an unforgettable season in 2070/71 as Robinho Lazaró led their club to a remarkable cup quadruple, as well as a second successive Liga MX Clausura Final. But could the Colombian’s young squad go one step further and win the Liga MX title?

Lazaró furthered the focus on youth by moving on the only two players aged over 30 as midfielder Luis Rojas joined Hannover for £3.5 million and defender Wbeymar Riascos went to Besiktas for £575,000. And backup centre-back Gerardo Rodríguez moved to Deportivo Toluca for £1.3 million. Importantly, they managed to hold on to striker Josué Vera, who decided he fancied a move to a bigger club.

Lazaró finally replaced Nogueira with exciting Colombian attacker Geovanni Campo, moving early to see off interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid to sign the 19-year-old for £650,000 from wonderkid factory Envigado. Riascos was replaced by 19-year-old Mexican Edwin Ramírez, who came through the Atlético Madrid academy and joined from Atlas Guadalajara for £5.2 million. And Lazaró brought in a natural left-back in Diego Dybala, who joined for £3 million from Estudiantes.

Those signings have the Pumas squad looking in good shape and Lazaró stuck with the 4-3-1-2 approach that had already won him five trophies in Mexico.

Liga MX Apertura

Apertura started with a dominant performance against Club León, racking up 34 shots and 3.33 xG. But they fell behind to the visitors’ first shot and only won 2-1 as Campo scored on his debut then Guillermo Cornejo sealed three points.

A momentous day saw Lazaró mark 50 years as a Football Manager on 1 August 2071, as his Pumas side visited Tigres and Cornejo nicked a point. That game came 50 years to the day since he took charge of Chilean minnows Deportes Puerto Montt, which set this momentous adventure on its path. And, 2,343 matches later, Lazaró certainly couldn’t complain about his half-century of management!

Other than his debut, Campo had struggled, but he repaid Lazaró’s faith with a brace to down Toluca 3-0 then another along with doubles by striker Eduardo Manzotti and midfielder Jesús Ramírez in a 6-2 thumping of Xolos Tijuana.

Pumas’ form throughout the league wasn’t great, largely because Vera’s form fell apart when he got unhappy. But the striker eventually dropped his concerns and ended a 13-hour goal drought with the opener in a 2-0 win at struggling Pachuca. That moved them up to third with two games remaining and Manzotti rediscovered his scoring touch with a bang as he bagged four in a 5-0 hammering of Santos Laguna then scored in the final game at Tampico Madero.

Another strong finish wrapped up third place in Apertura with 35 points from their 17 games, with Monterrey topping the league again. Pumas scored a league-high 36 goals and only conceded 12.

Multiple cup defences

Pumas’ cup overload began again as they looked to defend last season’s quadruple.

Leagues Cup

Pumas’ Leagues Cup defence began with a trip to Orlando City and didn’t last long as they got thumped 4-1!

Copa MX group

Pumas missed out on Copa MX in the final to Cruz Azul last season, but Lazaró threw in the reserves for their group. Latest youth intake star Juan Carlos Tamay scored on his debut against Atlético San Luis and, despite a few shaky results, they snuck through the group stage with ten points. But their 82 year wait for a Copa MX success continued as they were knocked out in the second round by Puebla FC.

CONCACAF Champions League

Pumas got an easy group alongside Tijuana, Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas and Forge FC, who they beat 9-1 last season. They began at home to Forge and settled for a 6-1 win led by an Ángel Barrientos hat-trick. Manzotti’s injury-time strike nicked a 1-0 win at Houston and another Barrientos hat-trick led a 5-1 win over Tijuana to seal qualification. And a draw at Dallas confirmed top spot.

Apertura playoffs

Pumas again took on Necaxa in the Apertura quarter-finals. Campo scored the only goal in the away leg then bagged a hat-trick in the home game to singlehandedly seal a 4-0 aggregate success.

The semi-finals saw Pumas get the dreaded draw of Cruz Azul, who’d beaten them 1-0 in their last six meetings! That trend ridiculously extended to seven as they lost 1-0 at home in the first leg despite having 24 shots to 12. Lazaró decided to mix things up for the second leg to try and stop the rot, moving Vera out to the right. But his side conceded in the first minute then did at least buck the trend as Alberto Mejía equalised. However, they couldn’t find a way through a dominant Cruz Azul, who snuck through 2-1 on aggregate.

All in all, Lazaró was a little frustrated by this half-season. Pumas still promised plenty and had some special performances in them, but the likes of Cruz Azul and Monterrey are ultimately just a little too strong for them.

But there’s no doubting there’s a big future at Pumas. That’s largely in the form of Mejía, who has a 7.60 average rating from 22 games at the halfway point of the season. While Manzotti leads the way with 18 goals in 24 matches and has 40 goals in 64 league games for the club. Furthermore, the Under 20s won their League Opening Stage title thanks to some great performances by recent academy graduates.

But would Lazaró stay at the club for the Clausura stage? Or could he be tempted by a move away from Mexico as we come toward the end of the FM22 cycle? Join us tomorrow to find out!

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