It's been roughly six years since a fresh faced Orbelin Pineda burst onto the scene (albeit in Mexico) with Queretaro.
Many touted the winger to be the 'next big thing' in Mexican football and, naturally, he was linked with a move to Europe. But now 24 and having spent his entire professional career in Mexico up to this point, Pineda is seemingly finally ready to consider taking the next step in his career.Yep, he has expressed an interest in moving to Europe, and guess what? There are no shortage of suitors, as exclusively revealed by 90min. Sure, he isn't exactly a young prospect anymore, but his tireless displays for Cruz Azul have seen him attract attention from a number of top clubs in Europe.
Now, we know what some of you may be thinking, the Liga MX may not be right up there with the leagues you choose to follow on a regular basis, but fear not because we have you covered. Here's some of the key things to know about Pineda...
1. He Can Play in a Number of Different Positions
Initially starting out as a deep-lying playmaker, Pineda - who stands at just 5'5 in height - usually operated as part of the two in a 4-2-3-1 formation. This system allowed him to control the game with his passing and technical skill, while he was also able to pick up pockets of space to work in.
But over time, the 24-year-old has gradually developed into more of a winger, which is where he predominantly plays now. But his pace, skill and range of passing allows him to capably play in the centre of the park - either in a deeper position or as an attacking midfielder - as well as on either flank.
In a deeper more central position, Pineda could influence the tempo of the game and dictate play - but he is not a natural tackler and can leave spaces exposed when his side lose the ball.
If we're being completely honest, his stats - 27 goals and 20 assists in 254 career games so far - don't exactly scream 'generational talent'. But it's Pineda's work rate, desire and tenacity, mixed with his undoubted skill, which have seen him become such a fan favourite in Mexico.
2. He Rejected Man City
Just one year after signing for Guadalajara on a five-year deal back in 2015, Manchester City came calling for the bright midfielder, who made a really impressive start to life at Chivas.
Still a fairly raw talent at the time, Pineda was showing his incisiveness on the ball and creativity on a fairly regular basis. And despite his former boss Matias Almeyda's remarks in 2016 that he 'has' to end up at a top European club eventually, Pineda ultimately opted against the idea of moving to the Etihad at the time.
3. Contract Situation & the Long, Long List of Clubs Interested
After years of anticipation, it finally appears as though Pineda is ready to consider the idea of making the step up into European football.
90min recently learned that no fewer than seven Premier League clubs have sent scouts to watch the Mexico international in action this year. They include: Arsenal, Tottenham, Southampton, Wolves, Newcastle, Everton and West Ham.
But they will face competition from the likes of Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Porto and Monaco for his signature. Indeed, a move to one of these four sides is the most likely outcome for Pineda.
While this may come as a surprise for some considering the interest from the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham, a move to Europe would be a big step up for Pineda. Therefore, a move to a club such as Ajax or Porto may benefit his progression and development more.
With his current contract due to expire in December 2021, this will only increase the chances of Pineda moving on sooner rather than later as clubs will be able to steal him away at an affordable price.
4. Words of Advice From Ronaldinho
Ronaldinho spent less than a year with Queretaro at the tail end of his career, but he of course left a lasting impression. In fact, he received a standing ovation in April 2015 after scoring a brace against then-title holders Club América.
As well as entertaining fans with his skill and artistry, Ronaldinho also left a lasting impression on Pineda, whom he played with during his time at the club.
Pineda told ESPN in November 2015: "He always told me that every time I received the ball in the midfield, to always go forward, never backwards. He always said to be decisive in the final third.
"He always told me that, and I always accepted his instructions. Once I got the ball in the midfield, I didn't care about anything else, just to be decisive."
5. A Family of Footballers
Not only was Orbelin's father a professional footballer, one of his brothers Onay, also played professionally.
The defender initially started out at Queretaro and worked his way up through the ranks before then turning out for Léon and Lobos. A move to Cafetaleros later followed, although he was eventually released.
Orbelin's trickery and skill when on the ball are aided by the fact that he and his family enjoy dancing. Indeed, it is his blend of balance when on the ball, creativity and tenacity which have helped him become such a menacing player.
6. Role Model? Sinha (of Course) & Hector Herrera
Perhaps what is most impressive about Pineda is that even during his younger days, he played - and still plays - with a real maturity and professionalism. Indeed, it was as if he was a seasoned professional...except he wasn't at the time.
But this is part of his outlook and attitude, never settling for what he has achieved and constantly looking to improve. With this in mind, there was only ever going to be one man who Pineda could look up to due to his professionalism.
Yep, Brazilian-Mexican Sinha.
The pair played together at Queretaro, and Pineda has previously discussed how Sinha has helped him develop as a person and footballer.
"Sinha is really humble, and he's a professional in every sense of the word. At his age, you can see his desire to always want to be on the pitch. Sinha is a great example for me," Pineda further added to ESPN in November 2015.
As well as Sinha, Pineda also admires now Atletico Madrid midfielder Hector Herrera. Indeed, it is the Mexican's intelligence both on and off the ball which stands out most for Pineda.
Source : 90min