Chivas, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, West Ham, Sevilla, and now, the LA Galaxy.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has arrived in MLS. In what will likely go down as one of the most important transfers in the history of the league, the Galaxy made it official on Tuesday when they announced that the Mexican superstar had signed on the dotted line.
This is huge. The Galaxy now have a lethal goalscorer with the abilities to become the best striker in the upcoming season — possibly even the best striker in MLS history. Chicharito has all of the tools needed to break MLS records, but before we dive into why he can do that, let’s first catch up with his most recent years abroad.
Lack of opportunities with West Ham and Sevilla
Back in late 2017, Hernandez had a promising start to his West Ham career on his return to the Premier League. With high expectations placed upon the shoulders of the former Manchester United star, Chicharito kicked off the 2017-18 EPL season as a starter with four goals in his first 10 games.
Then, a hamstring injury in November of 2017 halted his progress. By the time he returned to the field a few weeks later, he found himself with a new manager in David Moyes and — as had been the case when the pair were together at Old Trafford four years earlier — out of favor.
When Manuel Pellegrini replaced Moyes in the summer of 2018, Hernandez found himself in and out of the side under the Chilean coach's preferred single-striker formation. Sporadic success, hindered by additional injuries and time spent off the starting XI, followed over the next two years. Between 2017-2019 at West Ham, Hernandez accumulated an underwhelming total of 16 goals and only 31 starts in the 62 Premier League games that he was available.
Despite the fact that he was best known in the past for a similar role as a rotational player with Manchester United, Hernandez looked frustrated. Chicharito, who stated in a 2018 interview with The Daily Mirror that he needed “to have minutes on the pitch,” had grown tired of once again becoming a substitute. He hoped to avoid this after moving to La Liga’s Sevilla last summer. However, hungry for minutes and for a chance to show off his brilliant goalscoring talents, he recognized it was time to leave after only earning four league starts since September.
The benefits of Chicharito being "the man"
It is those regular minutes that Chicharito will surely now get with the Galaxy. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed, Hernandez will be the marquee star and focal point in Guillermo Barros Schelotto's attack. But what happened the last time he was given this much responsibility at the club level?
Since his days with Chivas, no club side has given Hernandez more starts per season than Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen. In the Bundesliga’s 2015-16 and the 2016-17 seasons, the striker collected 28 goals and 45 starts in the 54 games for which he was available. During that time, he also earned the Bundesliga’s “Player of the Month” award five separate times.
His numbers with the national team also speak for themselves. With 52 goals in 109 appearances, the striker is currently the all-time leading goalscorer for El Tri. In a main role with the Galaxy, Hernandez has the ability to significantly boost his scoring rate. Although he’s got big shoes to fill for the Galaxy after Ibrahimovic’s exit, he’s also an intriguing step forward. Ibrahimovic, for all of his strength and swagger, doesn’t have the same speed, work rate or stamina of Hernandez.
The Mexican’s link-up play is underrated and he already has a strong connection with an important midfielder for the team, fellow countryman Jonathan dos Santos. There’s also something to be said about the motivation that Hernandez will have after he was recently overlooked by West Ham and Sevilla. He’s undeniably got something to prove and remains a highly competitive player at the age of 31.
Becoming MLS’s top striker
The MLS single-season goals record of 34 set last year by LAFC’s Carlos Vela might not last long. Simply put: Hernandez has the tools to exceed what Vela accomplished last year. Chicharito’s finishing, aerial strength, ability to connect with crosses, headers and positioning are all better than what the LAFC star can provide. The two Mexican stars simply bring a different skill set to the table.
Vela’s goalscoring seems to be a byproduct of him brilliantly connecting with his frontline as a dynamic winger, and as for Hernandez, he’s an out-and-out striker who has a more ingrained focus to find the back of the net. He’s simply born to score. Goals are synonymous with Chicharito and the very reason why he has been able to become an icon and a living legend in the Mexican soccer world and beyond.
Set to receive the key role he hasn’t received since his days in the Bundesliga, coupled with his well-known traits as one of the most efficient players in the world in the 18-yard box, Chicharito has a good chance of smashing some records. And he could very well help talented Galaxy players operating behind him, like Dos Santos, Cristian Pavon and Sebastian Lletget earn some astonishing assist numbers.
Hernandez will be given the minutes, but now it’s up to him to once again follow through with goals. And plenty of them will be expected.
Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things Mexican soccer. He has covered Liga MX, the Mexican national team and Mexicans abroad for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast.