After years of rumors, the spider web of interests finally aligned, and the result is the second-biggest signing* – not to be confused with most influential or most successful, TBD on those – in league history. Only David Beckham can eclipse the press blitz and media microscope that will follow Javier Hernandez’s every move in Los Angeles.
*For the record – and certainly up for debate – here’s how I’d rank the 10 “biggest” signings in MLS history. David Beckham is in his own category of fame. Other than Pibe, he begat every other name on the list.
- David Beckham
- Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
- Thierry Henry
- Wayne Rooney
- Cuauhtemoc Blanco
- Didier Drogba
- Carlos Valderrama
- Sebastian Giovinco
Feel free to argue about it with me on Twitter (@andrew_wiebe) or in the comments.
Making the case
Why is Chicharito No. 2 on my list? Because he is unquestionably the biggest soccer star in North America. We’re talking about Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, a man whose Manchester United and Real Madrid appearances brought soccer fans in Mexico and the US to a standstill, all eyes affixed to the nearest television. I’ve seen it myself, on both sides of the border.
No, he doesn’t have the global appeal that Zlatan Ibrahimovic did. He won’t yuk it up on the late-night talk circuit or harbor movie-star ambitions. But Chicharito will attract millions and millions of eyeballs and more of the regional and local variety, in both Spanish and English, that MLS and the Galaxy need. His face will be on front pages and billboards. He’ll lead shows from Mexico City to Studio City. He’ll juice the box office, at Dignity Health Sports Park and beyond.
He’ll be bigger than Zlatan where it matters most: in our own backyard.
If you thought El Trafico was big before, just wait until Charlie Candle vs. the Little Pea. It might just be the toughest ticket in LA. The Galaxy better get used to the rock-star, fans-waiting-at-the-airport treatment. I’m talking cameras and microphones, mobs of autograph seekers and instant, Chicharito-centric analysis of every aspect of the club. He’s the prodigal son, and Los Angeles is as close as it gets to a return home.
As Herculez Gomez texted me when the rumors started heating up: “Welcome to the new king of Los Angeles. The city just crowned itself the Mecca of Fútbol in the United States.”
Little Pea will get it done
Chicharito will score goals, too. Lots and lots of them. Don’t let the “Yeah, but…” Twitter contingent tell you any differently. They're the same folks who were doubting Zlatan’s knee and motives not even two years ago. The same folks who didn’t think Wayne Rooney could still hack it. The same folks who ought to heed the same advice I was kind enough to give then: Set a reminder to delete those tweets.
Because, while West Ham didn’t work out and Sevilla was over before it really began, Hernandez is still just 31 years old and he’s still got an awful lot to prove and an awful lot to play for. The Galaxy can offer him – in addition to a fat Designated Player contract and lucrative marketing opportunities – exactly what he needs at this moment in his career.
He needs to be THE MAN, all-caps absolutely necessary. Unlike Julen Lopetegui at Sevilla, Guillermo Barros Schelotto can give Chicharito the status he has always enjoyed with country but only rarely got to savor with club. Other than a breakout year with Chivas (2009/10) and two years with Bayer Leverkusen (2015-2017), Hernandez has never been the Alpha and the Omega outside of El Tri.
He’ll basically be a soccer deity in LA, and he’ll have a full preseason to regain his prodigious powers. How does a front six of Chicharito, Cristian Pavon, Aleksandar Katai, Sebastian Lletget, Jonathan dos Santos and Joe Corona sound? Service and secondary scoring options? They got ‘em. A backline to protect leads? GM Dennis te Kloese seems close to filling those holes, too.
I’ll go on record right now with 20-plus goals in all competitions, a bet so safe it’s cowardly. As far as pure scorers go in MLS, it’s Carlos Vela, Josef Martinez and Chicharito. Nobody else is in the same ballpark. I’ll go on record right now and tell you the Galaxy will be a better team than they were in 2019, too. They’re getting more than 51 points in 2020. That’s a Baerantee.
What I won’t do is compare Chicharito, the player, to Zlatan. Not now. Not once. Not ever. No offense Javier, but Zlatan is from another planet. You aren’t going to score roundhouse kick goals and strike opposing defenders down like a Nordic god. No offense Zlatan, Chicharito might not score 30, but he will be more selfless. He’ll close down defenders and won’t berate his teammates mid-game.
And if it all works out in LA, it’ll work out with El Tri, too. He’s Chicharito, and Tata Martino knows MLS. If he’s in form, he’ll be in the team. The flights from LA to Central America for World Cup qualifying, set to start later this year, are much more convenient those trans-Atlantic journeys anyway. Maybe Raul Jimenez doesn’t have that starting spot locked up after all.
All this for a reported $9.5 million transfer fee. It’s a Galaxy record, but barely more than Sporting KC paid for Alan Pulido! It’s $5 million less than Inter Miami could reportedly pay for Roger Martinez! It’s same the same as what Toronto FC sent Roma for Michael Bradley five years ago. Whatever Chicharito’s salary is, reportedly the highest in MLS, that’s a relative bargain, too.
LA, as they so often do, signed a player who singlehandedly changes the landscape of Major League Soccer. Just like there is Before Beckham and After Beckham, there will be Before Chicharito and, someday, After Chicharito, too. As for what the Major League Soccer looks like, we’ll just have to be patient.
In relationships, in business, in soccer, timing is everything. For the Galaxy and Chicharito, the timing couldn’t be better.