Cuauhtémoc Blanco was a late bloomer, at least for someone considered one of his nation's greatest ever players.
Born on the outskirts of Mexico City, Cuauhtémoc joined the youth set up of Mexico’s most successful club, Club América, in 1998. He would make his debut at 19 but struggled to find a place in the side. His struggles, combined with América experiencing their worst trophy drought in decades, meant that Cuauhtémoc’s potential was at risk of going unrealised.
By his early 20’s Blanco has settled into a starting spot in the Club América first team leading to his first national team call up in 1995. A loan move to Nexaca in 97/98 seemed to be the catalyst his domestic career needed and in the summer of 1998 his talents would be admired on a global stage. ⠀
It was June 13th when a 25 year old Blanco, in his first of 3 world cups, would stamp his name onto the global footballing consciousness. Driven to near the corner flag by two South Korean defenders Blanco improvised, placing the ball between his feet and hopping between the two. Moments later he repeated the feat. It would be utilised again against Germany later in the tournament and the Cuauhtemiña was born. Was he the first footballer to put a ball between his feet and jump? No, but he did it at a World Cup and that was Cuauhtémoc, a born showman. His other trademark skills were the jorobiña (“little hunchback flick”) and the nalguiña (“little arse flick”) which alone should qualify him for legendary status.
1998 would also see him claim his first domestic golden boot and he never really looked back, 135 goals in 335 games for América made him a club legend. His 120 appearances over 15 years for the national team made him one of his nations most celebrated players. His longevity was remarkable, his goal against France at the 2010 World Cup made him the third-oldest scorer in the tournaments' history.
Leaving perhaps the most remarkable part of his game till last, his career total of 71 of 73 penalties scored rank him high among the best of all time. ⠀
He is not the greatest ever Mexican player, but footballers live on in memory and Blanco, and his hop, are eternal.