Chicharito's Mexico Legacy Is Secure, But Don't Count Him Out Just Yet

Right place, right time.

Such a simple act in theory, but the ability to be in the perfect position at the required moment is one that has always separated elite strikers from the rest of the pack. Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is one such player who rose to prominence due to his keen positional play and efficient finishing, ultimately becoming the most widely recognized name of any current El Tri player and his nation’s all-time leading scorer after just eight years.

Birthplace: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Years active: 2006-current

Teams: Chivas, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, West Ham United

Notable achievements: Premier League (two times), English Super Cup (two times) Liga MX, FIFA Club World Cup, Concacaf Gold Cup, 2011 Gold Cup top scorer, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer

Football in his DNA

The son and grandson of former Mexico national team players, the “little pea” was perhaps destined to ply his trade on the pitch but has reached heights his family could have never imagined. He has combined natural instincts with a hunger for outsmarting opponents to become one of the most lethal finishers to ever emerge from Concacaf.

At the age of 21 he caught the attention of European scouts while suiting up for his hometown club — Liga MX giants Chivas Guadalajara — and earned a move across the pond to Manchester United in the summer of 2010. He wasted no time in becoming a cult hero at Old Trafford. Primarily known for being a poacher, his first goal for the Red Devils ironically came in the form of a long-range chip over Real Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando in the 2010 MLS All-Star Game just 18 minutes into his first appearance.

He followed that with a goal against Chelsea — off his face, no less — in his first competitive appearance at the club, and an eventual 130 minutes-per-goal average in the Prem with 59 strikes across all competitions illustrates just how skilled he was at getting on the end of virtually every kind ball.

The Guadalajara native exploded onto the scene in international play, racking up 35 goals — the third-highest tally in El Tri history — in under four years. His first senior cap came in 2009 in a 2-1 loss to Colombia and just two years later he netted seven of Mexico’s staggering 11 goals en route to the 2011 Gold Cup title while earning Golden Boot honors. The goals kept coming in subsequent years throughout qualifying matches, friendlies, and at the World Cup, and on June 30, 2017, he surpassed Jared Borgetti as Mexico’s top scorer with a late goal against Croatia. 

His tally now stands at 51.

Don’t bet against El Tri’s top scorer

Despite securing a spot in the top 10 minutes-per-goal ratios in Premier League history, there came a time when his place in the Manchester United squad was no longer a definite. He completed a season-long loan to Real Madrid and didn’t make the sort of impact he would have liked — seven goals in 23 appearances — but the following season would provide the perfect opportunity to return to his best.

While many players have crumbled after losing their place at a top club where they had so much success, Chicharito had no such plans. A switch to German outfit Bayer Leverkusen ahead of the 2015-16 season paid dividends for the striker looking to become the focal point of an offense once again, and it didn't take long before he was terrorizing back lines. He exploded out of the gates with 26 goals in his first year, propelling his side to a third-place finish. 

His output did drop in his second year as Leverkusen thoroughly struggled and fell to 12th in the league, but his total of 39 goals in 76 matches across all competitions remains quite impressive.

Despite his previous success, Chicharito now finds himself in a bit of a precarious position for both club and country. His role at West Ham has evaporated due to playing out of position, managerial changes, unconvincing performances, as well as the addition of other forwards. Meanwhile, his place with El Tri isn’t the foregone conclusion it was only a year ago. He missed out on the Gold Cup this summer due to the birth of his first child, but recent comments from Mexico manager Gerardo Martino indicate that it’s the quality of play by fellow Premier League striker Raúl Jiménez over the past year and not Chicharito’s absence that has changed the pecking order.

A player with the abilities and football IQ of Chicharito has every right to believe he can score in bunches once again, particularly at just 31 years of age, and he has already demonstrated he can rejuvenate his career. Whether it’s in Europe or by a change of scenery in Major League Soccer sometime in the near future, don’t bet against Chicharito regaining his footing to give back lines fits with his intelligent movement and nose for goal.

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