Mexico head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino is adamant that Sevilla striker Javier Hernandez and Monterrey's Miguel Layun have been left out of El Tri's squad for sporting reasons, following a wave of rumors in Mexico that it's due to indiscipline.
Hernandez, in particular, was reported to have broken squad rules during the September international friendlies against the United States in New Jersey and Argentina in San Antonio. There's even been suggestions in the Mexican press that he'd never play for Mexico again, with reports that a member of the Mexican federation (FMF) had been fired due to the issue.
But sources confirmed to ESPN's Sergio Dipp that Hernandez has spoken to FMF sporting director Gerardo Torrado and FMF president Yon de Luis, neither of who mentioned any kind of punishment to the former Manchester United striker.
Martino said Thursday that there was nothing more to the 31-year-old's absence than him wanting to look at Leon's 20-year-old striker Jose Juan Macias during CONCACAF Nations League action on Friday against Panama and then next Tuesday versus Bermuda.
"No [he isn't banned], Javier Hernandez is not here because I've opted to call up Raul ([Jimenez] and Jose Juan [Macias]," said Martino in a news conference in Panama City. "We think [Macias] is doing really well. There are things we asked of him since September and we've seen him putting them into practice with his club.
"We've been pleased with how [Macias] has come on," he continued. "So we think that it's important that he is part of a squad in which there is a blend of older and younger players, but above all so he can watch everything Raul does closely to help him in his development."
Martino stressed that he commented back in September that Jimenez is the number one striker with El Tri and that the situation hasn't changed, even though Hernandez is Mexico's top goalscorer.
In the case of Layun, Martino said he'd spoken to the Monterrey player to explain that there are full-backs in better form than him right now, discounting any ulterior motive for the non call-up.
Martino picked a squad for Nations League games containing only three Europe-based players -- Edson Alvarez (Ajax), Erick Gutierrez (PSV), Jimenez -- as part of his ongoing search to expand the player pool and promote younger talent.
Former Barcelona coach Martino is expected to choose a strong XI to face Panama in a game in which El Tri only needs a point to guarantee qualification to the Nations League final next June. Guillermo Ochoa is likely to start in goal, with Luis Rodriguez, Cesar Montes, Hector Moreno, Jesus Gallardo across the defense; Alvarez, Gutierrez and Carlos Rodriguez in midfield and Rodolfo Pizarro, Roberto Alvarado and Jimenez making up the forward line.
L.A. Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos left the squad due to a right hamstring injury earlier this week, to be replaced by Monterrey's Rodriguez, while Hiram Mier was also dropped due to injury, with fellow Chivas center-back Gilberto Sepulveda coming in to take his place.
Martino also congratulated Mexico's Under-17 side, which advanced on penalties against the Netherlands on Thursday to reach Sunday's World Cup final.
"Congratulations to all the players and coaching staff that have qualified for a World Cup final," said Martino. "Hopefully on Sunday the team will be crowned champion."