Wolves striker Raul Jimenez has targeted Gold Cup success and wants to show he has arrived on the world stage.
Jimenez, soon to become the club record £32m signing, scored twice as Mexico got their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign off to a flying start with a 7-0 rout of Cuba in front of 65,000 at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles at the weekend.
On familiar territory, LA Galaxy midfielder Uriel Antuna took the plaudits after scoring a hat-trick, but Jimenez earned widespread praise for his contribution, netting in the 31st and 64th minutes.
Jimenez is making the most of his opportunity to be the main man in the absence of some of Mexico’s star names Carlos Vela, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Hirving Lozano, Hector Herrera and Jesus Corona.
Mexico’s next game in Group A is against Canada at the Sports Authority Field or Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado in the early hours of Thursday morning, BST.
“Personally, I’ve never won (the Gold Cup). I’ve only been once and we finished in the semi-final, so I’m coming in with passion, pride and the drive to win it – it is something I’m missing,” said the 29-year-old.
“It’s going to be very special for me, it’s a very good opportunity to show Mexico and the world who I am.”
Jimenez, who struck gold with Mexico at the 2012 Olympics in London, is also hoping to make up for lost time after only figuring as a bit-part player in last summer’s World Cup in Russia.
“Honestly, yes (I expected to play more),” he added. “With (former Mexico manager) Juan Carlos Osorio’s process and the rotations I thought, ‘I probably won’t play against (group stage opponents) Germany, but against South Korea or Sweden, I could start a game.’ They are simply the coach’s decisions and you have to accept them.”
Jimenez was one of four ever presents at Molineux with Matt Doherty, Joao Moutinho and captain Conor Coady. The former Benfica forward was one of 29 players to feature in all of his team’s 38 Premier League games, scoring 13 goals – a Wolves club record in the Premier League, with 17 in all competitions. Only Callum Wilson (Bournemouth) and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy of clubs outside the ‘big six’ got more – as well as creating 42 chances and making seven assists.
Someone who has made a similar transition from Mexico to the Premier League is former Bolton striker Jared Borgetti. He believes Jimenez has earned his success through his fierce work ethic and willingness to be a team player.
“He’s not a traditional number nine that is static and waiting. He likes to drift outside (the penalty area), he likes to participate in the offensive transition,” Borgetti, who lies second on Mexico’s all-time scoring list behind Javier Hernandez, told ESPN. “He’s not someone who is obsessed with the goal, he’s a player that helps the team play better and others to score as well. Defensively, he co-operates and that’s why the coach and the people in the team praise him; he’s not only there in the good times, he also works.”
That prodigious workrate has stood Jimenez in good stead as he endeared himself to the Wolves fans, and Borgetti believes the vision of how he saw the Mexican fitting in from head coach Nuno Espirito Santo helped him settle too.
“Much depends not only on style of the country, but the coach’s playing style so that your skills can fit the system and that’s what’s helped Raul a lot,” added Borgetti. “I’m sure Raul and the coach (Nuno Espirito Santo) thought they’d do well, but not as well as they did.”