Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez's performances this season with Bayer Leverkusen, with 19 goals in 22 appearances, may have Manchester United feeling regret for letting him get away.
Orlando City SC fans certainly would have prefered that Hernandez was bagging goals for the Lions instead, with summer talks to land the Mexico international never coming to fruition. Orlando will at least get an in-person look at what could have been when Hernandez's side comes to Central Florida for this month's Florida Cup, a 10-day, nine-team exhibition tournament in which Leverkusen will play Colombia's Sante Fe and Brazilian side Internacional at ESPN's Wide World of Sports.
And Hernandez discussed just how close he came to a Stateside move in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, confirming rumors that he was considering a move back to North America to join MLS.
“That’s a question for my agent, because for me I just I knew that some of the people who works for MLS, yeah of course there were rumors, there were things, there were talks, but I was very focused to be there in Manchester United to try to make the best decision,” Hernandez told the Sentinel.
Hernandez was part of an ambitious pursuit by then-expansion club Orlando City SC, with the club’s owner Augusto da Silva proudly proclaiming last July, “Why not for Orlando, why not for MLS?”
While Hernandez wanted to prove himself in Manchester, he admitted that the persistence of Leverkusen ultimately led him to the Bundesliga.
“In the first part in Manchester United they told me that I would have a little bit more chances [to play], and then a lot of interest [went] down, but Leverkusen stayed there,” he said. “They stayed there since the beginning to the last, just to [let me] know they were going to do their best until the last minute to try to sign me.
“When I talked with [Manchester United coach Louis] Van Gaal the three or four days before I came to Leverkusen, he told me if there is a good offer for me I should take it because at Manchester United probably I would not have the minutes that I wanted.”
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Despite turning down MLS for now, Hernandez acknowledged that the league is making substantial strides as evidenced by recruiting fellow El Tri star Giovani Dos Santos to the LA Galaxy.
“They're [MLS] improving, improving a lot," he said. "I'm very happy that this country and all the people in the U.S. are more interested in soccer, because that's a good country to play and as well as to live [in,] to play in Major League Soccer, which I think is growing up day by day.”
As for Hernandez’s current form -- the 27-year-old has almost matched Manchester United’s entire scoring output this season (24) -- he credits his current setup.
“Obviously, the strikers are probably going to score more goals than other players in other positions, but I think it’s a consequence of all the effort and the way the team plays that sometimes you can score a lot of goals or sometimes you can assist or sometimes you can do a lot more things to contribute to the team not only in goals.”