Edson Álvarez focused on Copa América amid Man United links

HOUSTON — Mexico midfielder Edson Álvarez said Friday that he’s “focused on” the Copa América amid reports that Manchester United are interested in signing the West Ham player.

“I can only tell you that I’m focused on what I have to do. I know that the Copa América is a very important tournament where the eyes of the world are basically here,” Álvarez, who joined West Ham from Ajax last summer, said ahead of Mexico’s tournament opener against Jamaica on Saturday in Houston.

“Later there will be time to see what there is or what there isn’t.”

Álvarez, 26, is set to wear the captain’s armband as the new leader for a Mexico roster that is in a generational change under coach Jaime “Jimmy” Lozano.

“I really want this to start, [so] tomorrow I can go out with the captain’s armband, listen to the Mexican national anthem in front of all the people. It’s something I think about and get goosebumps,” he added.

Lozano will coach in the Copa América for the first time since taking charge of El Tri in 2023. Despite hitting the ground running with a Gold Cup trophy last summer, Mexico’s coach has been questioned in recent months after being unable to win the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League title and recently losing to Uruguay and Brazil in friendlies.

And the former Necaxa and Queretaro coach admitted this summer’s Copa América is the biggest challenge of his managerial career.

“Without a doubt, without a doubt, of course,” he said. “A Copa América is surely just a step below a World Cup.

“Because we are not always invited, because there are teams that have been world champions many times. Without a doubt, without a doubt, the most important tournament [of my career].”

After facing Jamaica at Houston’s NRG Stadium this weekend, Mexico will continue their Copa América group stage run against Venezuela on June 26 (at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California) and Ecuador on June 30 (at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona).

Although Mexico finished as Copa America finalists in 1993 and 2001, the Concacaf side have failed to go further than the quarterfinal stage in their last three outings.

Jamaica coach Heimir Hallgrimsson praised Mexico in a separate press conference on Friday, but also didn’t count his team out against the all-time leaders in Gold Cup titles.

“They are the powerhouse of our confederation and on paper probably more likely to win the game,” said Hallgrimsson. “But luckily for us, this game is not played on paper, it’s played out there.”