Tigres winger Jurgen Damm wants to play in Europe at some point in his career -- and it isn't that he has been short of interest.
Now 24, the Mexico international has been the subject of offers from the kind of clubs few CONCACAF players can even dream of: Roma, Wolfsburg and PSV Eindhoven. The list of potential suitors filling column inches includes Arsenal, Sporting Lisbon, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.
But so far, it hasn't happened. The moment a European transfer appeared most likely for Damm was when he was still a Pachuca player in the summer of 2015. But Tigres, a club on the rise, swooped and outbid European giants Roma by paying around $15 million USD in a huge deal for Mexican football.
Damm didn't really have much of a choice, and he admitted that the final decision was Pachuca's to make.
"Here in Mexico the amounts are very high, and for that reason, Hirving [Lozano's] potential move and mine have stalled a lot," Damm said in a recent interview with ESPN FC. "[Tigres] want [$15m] or more, and it's very difficult to leave."
The situation reveals a peculiarity of the Mexican game, in which clubs tend to be wealthy and both internal transfers and wages are high -- partly because there isn't always freedom of contract. European clubs are naturally put off by the high prices, which explains one of the central reasons that there aren't more Mexicans in Europe, something Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio would like to change.
But Damm hasn't stagnated since his move to reigning Liga MX champions Tigres. Ask anyone in the local press in Monterrey, and the journalists will tell you that Tigres coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti reserves special rage for Damm, whom he apparently screams at frequently in training.
The screaming has seemingly worked. Damm's game has developed substantially under Ferretti. The winger has become a much more rounded player. The Veracruz-born, Guadalajara-raised footballer -- who lived in Toronto as a child for two years -- has always been able to breeze past defenders as if he were robotically programmed to do so. It is that ability to be desequilibrante -- which loosely translates to "destabilizing" -- that explains the interest in him from Europe. The modern game demands players with Damm's raw pace to unlock increasingly organized defenses. It was this trait that saw him go on trial with Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United in 2013.
But defensively, in terms of choosing when to charge and when to lay the ball off, as well as in his all-around game intelligence, Damm has made significant strides and is arguably in the form of his life this 2017 Clausura. He has even featured as a right-back at times.
"First, [I've improved] in the question of defending. Second, [I'm] more mature when making decisions and have more confidence when finishing," Damm said. "Crossing is what I'm trying to pay more attention to and shooting on goal, I feel that there are aspects that I need to improve."
The improvements saw another wave of interest from Europe last January, but Tigres made it clear that Damm would not be leaving unless a European team met his high buy-out clause. Damm took it on the chin, holding a news conference with local Monterrey media to explain that he wouldn't be exiting the club through the back door, insisting he would be fully concentrated and professional.
"Here, I am very happy playing finals and winning cups every year and in the best club in the Americas, with one of the best coaches there is," Damm said of his current situation.
It's the kind of maturity that hints that he isn't your stereotypical football player. The grandson of a German immigrant to Mexico -- his great-grandfather sent his children abroad as fascism gripped the country -- Damm was educated, like the rest of his immediate family on his father's side, in a German school in Guadalajara and attended a Christian church as a youngster (something he also does in Monterrey).
When he was embarking on his fledgling career at Estudiantes Tecos, Damm's parents were adamant that school should be as much a priority as soccer. Even now, the 24-year-old spends his spare time with his young daughter and wife studying languages -- the interview was carried out in English -- and trying to do productive pursuits.
But in terms of his play on the pitch, Damm's career is reaching a critical phase. Tigres seem to have shaken off their early-season lethargy and are gunning for more trophies. The CONCACAF Champions League final second leg offers Damm and the expensively assembled Tigres side an opportunity to qualify for December's FIFA Club World Cup. Then, there could come the Clausura playoffs and a chance to defend Tigres' Liga MX crown.
But it is with the national team that Damm has a major opportunity. He appears to be a favorite of Osorio, who has backed him to succeed in Europe and is naturally inclined toward rapid wingers. With Osorio set to pick one squad for June's World Cup qualifying and Confederations Cup and another for the Gold Cup, Damm will be desperate to get into the former. From there, he'll be looking for minutes in the competition in Russia, which offers a window to be seen against world-class opposition.
"My biggest dream is to be able to play a World Cup and in a European club with Champions League, so I trust in God that someday I will be able to fulfill my dream," Damm said. "I think I am at a good age, and with my German passport it is easier. I leave everything in God's hands."
If a European side is to splash big money and Damm is to accomplish his lofty goals, the next few months could be vital as the ambitious winger approaches his prime.