On deadline day, Javier Hernandez sealed a move to the Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. There were some that called the move a step down in his career and it would have been hard to argue with them. When you play for Manchester United and Real Madrid, going to Bayer is a step down but only because there is nowhere else to go but down after those huge clubs. Critics said Bayer only bought him for marketing reasons and jersey sales. That they spent $12-13 mil on a player more capable of selling jerseys than leading an attack. One who can only succeed as a “Super Sub” and not as an every game starter for a Champions League caliber club. Early returns on the transfer are proving those doubters wrong. I’m not sure why so much doubt in the first place. I think all the criticism of Chicharito made fans forget that he’s actually, a pretty good player.
Chicharito is coming off a season at Real Madrid that saw him only start 12 games across all competitions. Most games, he came on well after the game had already been decided. He was unable to shake off that “Super Sub” tag that had followed him since his move to England. It was always understood he would be the backup to Benzema but that playing time would come for the Mexican. Real Madrid were competing in several different competitions. Unfortunately for Chicharito, Ancelotti seemed reluctant to use his squad. He kept trotting out the same lineups and used minimal squad rotation. The lack of squad rotation eventually caught up to Real Madrid and injuries happened late in the campaign.
A funny thing happened when Carlo had to play Hernandez down the stretch, the Little Pea came up big. Javier had 5 goals and 3 assists in his final 11 appearances for Los Blancos. He endeared himself to Madristas everywhere with his winner against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. There were even whispers of Madrid using their buy option on Hernandez after his strong finish. Ultimately, he finished 6th in La Liga in goals per 90 minutes and fans loved his work rate. Madrid’s deadline to buy Chicharito came and went and he was on his way back to United. Another season where Chicharito failed to earn a starting position, more ammo for his detractors. Time to come back to Mexico or MLS critics were saying.
Could Chicharito ever produce enough in Europe to start? Well… given minutes, he had already been producing in Europe. He just happened to be playing on 2 of the biggest clubs in the world.
His first 3 years at United, under Ferguson, saw him get the most playing time/starts he has received in Europe so far. It also saw him finish 3rd, 8th, and 1st in goals per 90mins in the Premier League. He even won the Supporter’s Player of the Year award after scoring 20 goals across all competitions in 2010-2011. The playing time at United dried up once Fergie retired. His last season was the last time Chicharito started double digit league games. His 2 successors, Moyes & LvG, did not care for Chicharito. One shipped him off to the bench and the other shipped him off to Madrid then Leverkusen for good. Although his United career was a little bit uneven at the end, Chicharito still ended up as United’s 37th highest goalscorer in team history.
I understand the criticism that gets thrown Chicharito’s way. He is one of Mexico’s most important players and fans want to see him get minutes and goals. Their appetite for more may cause them to forget the successes he has already had. Very few players get the chance to put on a Manchester United or Real Madrid kit, much less both clubs. While he never became the 20+ goal scorer many had hoped after his first European campaign, he has still been a success overseas. His current stint with Bayer Leverkusen should erase any doubts that he can lead a Champions League level attack. He has a manager that trusts him and keeps him in the starting lineup. Hernandez is repaying him with goals and great performances.
While many will hop on social media to critique his latest miss or share the new Chicha meme of the day, I am just going to sit back and enjoy watching him play. He is such a joy to watch and sometimes, we forget that. Fans demand perfection and I’m sure you would have made that last shot he missed but take a step back. He’s had an incredible career and I, for one, am glad I get to watch it unfold.