On 10 January 2019, 18-year-old Diego Lainez joined La Liga club Real Betis from Liga MX side América on a five-year contract reportedly worth $14 million. It was a dream come true for the teenager, who always wanted to play in one of Europe’s elite leagues. Lainez is touted as one of Mexico’s most exciting talents. After representing his country in several age groups, the winger received his first call-up to the senior national team on 29 August 2018.
Born in Villahermosa, Mexico, Lainez was scouted by Ángel González at a very young age. In 2012, he moved to Mexico City to join América’s academy at the age of 12.
His rose through the ranks after representing the club and his country in various age levels. He soon got a chance to prove his talent in the first team, but his league debut came quite literally by accident on 1 March 2017.
América manager Ricardo La Volpe is known to giving minutes to young players and was looking to hand Costa Rica U-20 Gerson Torres some playing time in March of 2017 against Cruz Azul in Copa MX group stage match. However, he soon found out that Torres isn’t eligible to participate in the match as he hadn’t been registered with the senior team for that tournament and had to include 16-year-old Lainez into starting lineup instead.
Since then, he’s been used sporadically by La Volpe and later, by his successor Miguel Herrera.
The glimpses of brilliance he showed in 2018 with America, on 4 August 2018, Lainez scored his first two goals for América in a 3–1 win over Pachuca and became the youngest player to score a double with the club, and the fifth youngest to score a goal in the club’s history. However, his progress was soon hampered, when on 18 September, the youngster suffered a sprained ankle on his left foot during training. He made his comeback into the first team just in four weeks and on October 25th 2018, Lainez was called up by Diego Ramírez to participate in the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Mexico finish runner-up in the competition, with Lainez being named in the Best XI. Lainez was included in Mexico’s U-21 team to participated at the 2018 Toulon Tournament. He scored the opening goal against Qatar in Mexico’s 4–1 win. He would go on to win the Best Player Award, as well as make the Best XI of the competition as Mexico finished runner-up.He was also participated in the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games.
Lainez continued to get regular first team action and scored 5 goals in the 2018-19 Liga MX season. His consistent performances prompted many excited observers to hype up the diminutive but technically gifted Lainez as the ‘Mexican Messi’.
Since his converted move to Real Betis at the start of 2019, the left-footed forward has enthralled the crowds with his slick moves and energetic performances. He has appeared 9 times for the Béticos and scored once. The goal came against Rennes FC in the last minute of a thrilling 3-3 Europa League knockout tie.
The winger needs to step up and add some physicality to his game to compete in Europe. He has made a bold move at a very tender age but it could well prove the most significant step on a journey that everyone involved hopes will end with Lainez becoming a star for both Betis and El Tri.