Mexico coach Tata Martino criticized for ‘extortion’ claim over dual-national Alejandro Zendejas

Club America manager Fernando Ortiz has cautioned Mexico coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino to “watch what you’re saying” over comments he made about dual-national midfielder Alejandro Zendejas, who has reportedly yet to sign a one-time switch from the U.S. to Mexico.

After a 1-0 friendly loss to Paraguay on Wednesday, Martino said that “it’s almost an extortion” for the Club America midfielder to delay officially switching to Mexico, suggesting that him doing so was tied to whether he would be selected for this year’s World Cup.

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“You have to be careful with your words and how you use them when communicating,” Ortiz said during a press conference on Friday.

“You have to watch what you’re saying.”

FIFA are currently probing Zendejas’ eligibility after the former U.S. youth national team player subsequently featured for Mexico in two friendlies.

“The player needed to sign a document and the player didn’t want to sign it,” Mexico’s coach told TUDN after the defeat. “There is no problem with the federation, no problem with the manager, nothing.”

Without a one-time switch, he would have been ineligible to appear for El Tri. He was left off of the roster for the Paraguay game despite an impressive start to the Liga MX Apertura, where has scored three goals in 11 appearances.

“FIFA will investigate this matter, please understand that we are unable to comment further at this moment,” the governing body told ESPN Mexico last week.

Alejandro Zendejas has been in fine form for Club America so far this season. Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images

Without Zendejas, Martino and Mexico went on to lose to Paraguay during Wednesday friendly at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Chants of “Fuera Tata” (Tata out) and boos were directed toward the manager who has only two wins in Mexico’s last seven games. Earlier in the year, he was also blasted by media and fans for an unconvincing run through World Cup qualifying.

“Not just a public enemy, but public enemy No. 1,” was how Martino referred to himself when asked about the boos and criticism on Wednesday. “They don’t know me, they don’t know how I am as a person, if they knew how I am as a person, surely it wouldn’t happen.”

Ahead of the World Cup, Mexico confirmed on Friday that they’ll have a friendly against Iraq on Nov. 9 in Girona, Spain. The match, at the Estadio Montivili, will be their penultimate preparation game, ahead of facing Sweden in Girona on Nov. 16, before flying out to Qatar.

Before their trip to Europe, Mexico will have two farewell games in California this month. El Tri will go up against Peru at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl (Sept. 24) and against Colombia in Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium (Sept. 27).

After their four upcoming friendlies, Martino and his squad will make the trip to Qatar where they’ll face Poland, Argentina and Saudi Arabia in the World Cup group stage this November.