SAN JOSE, Calif. – Superstar players are rarely as open about their internal lives as Javier Hernandez.
The LA Galaxy striker has spoken often of his mental health challenges over the years and has lately become an avid live-streamer on Twitch, often sharing deeply emotional moments in addition to his gaming exploits.
Some matters remain difficult even for Chicharito to readily reveal, though. Like the painful fallout from a 2021 split from his ex-wife Sarah Kohan, and the long periods apart from their young children Noah and Nala that followed, particularly when Kohan relocated to her native Australia with the kids.
That situation cast a shadow on his life last year. But on Tuesday he revealed he’s entering the 2023 MLS season with a better arrangement, and a clearer head as a result.
“I think I'm in my best spot and the best mindset that I can be. I think things in my life are very well ordered, so I can focus completely on the things that I want to do,” Chicharito told MLSsoccer.com in a 1-on-1 interview at the league’s preseason media day.
“The situations personally about with my kids are conspiring very [much] in my favor. That was a very key moment that, people don't know about it, and I didn't want to speak about it.”
Hernandez suffered the breakup of his marriage after the death of his grandfather Tomás Balcázar, a key mentor and confidant all his life, and that sequence of loss pained him in ways he continues to work through. The separation also led to the very public outing of details of his falling out with Kohan, who accused him of being an absentee father.
But Chicharito, 34, feels hopeful and grounded at the dawn of a new year.
“It's just some situations that people don't have context about it, and the only thing that I'm going to tell you is my relationship with my kids hasn't been the one that I would love it to be. But it's not because of me,” the Designated Player said. “Because I have responsibilities and I have a job and I have certain stuff. But things are moving forward, I would say getting in order – accommodating, conspiring in my favor so that I can spend more time with them.”
"I don't take nothing for granted"
Despite a persistent exile from the Mexican national team, the El Tri legend says he’s still as driven as ever as he prepares for his 18th season as a professional. This will be his fourth season with the Galaxy, which naturally raises questions about his future as he forges deeper into his 30s.
But there Chicharito cites some wisdom passed down to him from his father and grandfather, themselves both distinguished players in Mexico.
“Every season that I start, I try to see it like if it was my last one, and I started playing like that when I was a child as well. My granddad, my father and all my family teach me that,” explained the Galaxy’s leading scorer the past two seasons, having combined for 35 goals and five assists in 53 games. “You can have bad injuries, life can hit, chaos can come, COVID, another pandemic can come. You never know, man.
“So I don't take nothing for granted. The legacy of what we’re talking about and my future is like, I am completely in order about my past and very well put it into place about that. And then as well on my future, I'm not attached to it. I’m just very very focused on the present, having a lot of perspective about it: gratefulness, acceptance, and as well trying to manage our demons that we have them over here too, so I can enjoy better my life.”
Hernandez used the terms ganas and deseo in the Spanish part of his interview to underline his hunger. And he’s deeply conscious of the urgency facing the record five-time league champions after another season without hardware, underlined uncomfortably by their crosstown rivals LAFC having hoisted their first-ever MLS Cup trophy last autumn, after defeating the Gs in a 3-2 thriller in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Despite being hit with sanctions this offseason for violating MLS salary budget guidelines several years ago, the Galaxy hope that continued productivity from Chicharito, a full season of silky Spanish playmaker Riqui Puig’s influence and some promising winter signings will enable them to end their hardware drought.
“I wouldn't be here if I didn't have the same fire and the same desire,” said Hernandez. “Because as well, speaking about responsibilities, my salary, my place in this league, my place in this team, my place in this organization means that if I don't feel ready, it is better to step down. So I feel more than ready to deliver, more than ready to give my all and hopefully football can conspire in my favor and in LA Galaxy’s favor so we can achieve the things that we want to achieve.”
The same applies to his international career. Recent media reports in Mexico claim that with coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s departure from El Tri, Chicharito’s exclusion from the national team will end when their next squad is called together, which at this point appears to be in March, when Concacaf Nations League play resumes.
“We’ll see! I read that too,” said Hernandez, who remains Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, with a fleeting smile. “But we'll see. There's no manager yet over there. So I don't know how things are there because I've never been – I mean, it's been already almost four years from since my last game that I played over there.
“If I didn't want to be in the national team any more, I will retire. So yeah, we'll see. We'll see how everything develops, speaking in that sense. But of course, if you want to be in the national team, you need to start doing the things very good in your [club] team so you can be considered one of the best Mexicans around the world, so you can be called up.”