Mexican footballing mogul on learning from Celtic partnership

By Euan Davidson

May 11, 2021

The links between Celtic and Santos Laguna go further than sharing kit colours.

The Bhoys established an official partnership with the Mexican outfit in 2010, forming the ‘Green and Blanco’ alliance [Celtic FC]. While cynics would suggest it was another example of a European club aiming to exploit a market, it seemed genuinely beneficial to both parties.

The Mexican market has been an underrated mine for talent. In 2010, Celtic signed Efrain Juarez, a Mexican international player [Guardian]. Although it didn’t quite work out for Juarez at Parkhead, the signing was a sign of intent to increase awareness of the Bhoys in Latin America. Certainly, the Mexican midfielder enjoyed his time at the club, as this interview shows.

More than just signings and commercial agreements, though, there’s been an exchange of knowledge. Certainly, Alejandro Irarragorri, owner of Grupo Orlegi, the group that lists Santos Laguna in its portfolio, speaks highly about Celtic.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Irarragorri claimed:

“A lot of clubs talk about alliances with Real Madrid and Barcelona and they go once a year to take a picture with the president and that is basically it. This alliance was quite deep.

“We sent employees to live in Scotland for up to nine months. Even though it is not the largest league in the world, Celtic is a very well-run club with best practices in a lot of areas. So we sent our employees over there, more as a secondment.

“It is not only that Celtic and Santos share colours, we found a really big brother in Celtic. Our gratitude to Celtic is endless. I could talk about Celtic for 24 hours.

“Celtic are as prepared as the best Premier League teams. It is just the market that does not support that, income wise. The passion of their fans. We learned a lot. They opened the door to us in Europe and helped us create relationships and learn best practices.”

Marc Crosas, during his stint at Santos Laguna / (Photo by Jorge Lopez/ via Getty Images)

Mexican clubs learning the Celtic way

After this season, you might scoff at the idea of anyone learning anything useful from Celtic. However, we need to consider our reputation further afield.

As the first and only Scottish winners of the European Cup, Celtic inspired generations of supporters and players across the world. Our name is globally known, particularly in East Asia, Australia the US and in Europe. Our supporters are award-winning, and our status allows us to use methodologies and practices that other clubs could learn from.

The Grupo Orlegi chief seems to be cognisant of that. This status also means paying it forward, and not just creating commercial partnerships, but ideological partnerships that benefit everyone. Clearly, that’s been the case with Santos Laguna, who were Marc Crosas’ destination after a spell with Celtic and Russian side Volga.

Whether this partnership bears more fruit from Celtic’s perspective is a massive unknown. Changes to work permit legislation would make it potentially tricky for a Mexican talent to come to these shores and play for the Bhoys. That’s a shame – Mexico are currently ranked 11th in the world by FIFA.

In any event, it’s a positive thing to hear Celtic’s name being sung across the world. That interview is a fantastic insight into modern club ownership, ownership groups and the changing landscape of running football clubs in the 21st Century.

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