Once upon a time, there was a boy whose talent made a nation dream. He was not very tall, but with his nimble legs, speed and dribbling, he challenged giants and brought opponents to their knees.
The stories written about him said he would be a superstar ready to spread countless joyful stories among his fellow compatriots.
The name of this boy was Diego Lainez and his presence today is nothing more than the pale trail of a future that never materialized.
Reports from Portugal say that SC Braga contacted Real Betis – the owner of Lainez's rights – to shorten the one-year loan deal they have on the table due to the lack of play of the Mexican player in Os Arcebispos. The winger has only played in four of the last 11 games, and he wasn't even on the bench during the previous Primeira Liga game vs. Santa Clara.
The worst thing? This bad semester in SC Braga is not an exception in Lainez's career and seems to start being a pattern. And obviously, this makes people wonder what's going on with him. Where did all his talent go?
Lainez dazzled Club América fans when he was just 17 years old. He was dangerous with the ball on his feet, impudent and helped the club to get the Apertura 2018 title. His electric style of play was also enough to earn him a place on the national team and also in the constantly growing Mexico vs. USMNT rivalry.
Hello, Matt Miazga.
In 2019, Real Betis was seduced by Lainez's skills and after paying a record 14 million dollars, they added him to their squad. Lainez was young, promising and had unlimited potential. Or at least that was the assumption.
#Deportes l Betis ficha a la joven promesa Diego LainezEl Real Betis de España sorprende al hacer oficial el fichaje de la perla mexicana de 18 años Diego Lainez.
— CAFOCARES (@cafocaressv) January 11, 2019
Lainez showed sparks of that talent a few times with the verdiblancos, but at some point, that talent started to lose fuel. He had a fair number of chances, but after not delivering on a regular basis, those chances and the minutes on the field started to fade.
There were signs of life when Lainez guided Mexico to a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics, but when the player returned to Betis, the light went off again. Yes, he was injured for a while, but when he was fit again, he blew one chance after another.
SC Braga threw him a life jacket at the beginning of the 2022-23 season. He played, scored two goals and provided two assists. There was hope. But then again, just six months into his loan, Lainez is one more time unable to deliver consistently, to the point that the Portuguese club doesn't want him anymore.
Diego Lainez dejará al Sporting Braga con los siguientes números:- 13 partidos disputados
- 2 goles
- 2 asistencias
Tras cuatro años en Europa sigue sin poder conseguir la adaptación en un club. pic.twitter.com/mvbCvXXoYT
— Julio Rodríguez (@julioordz10) January 10, 2023
And if you add the fact that he didn't make the cut in Mexico's squad for the 2022 World Cup, you can see there's an even bigger problem. Did he peak too young? Is it a mentality thing? Who knows.
So what's next? Tigres and América have shown interest in bringing him back to Liga MX. There are always talks about a move to MLS. However, Lainez wants to keep trying in Europe.
And who can blame him? Lainez has been around for a long time, but he is still only a 22-year-old with the dream of writing all the epic stories people thought he one day would star in.