CARSON, Calif. — Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez had no doubts about leaving Europe to join the LA Galaxy, but if he'd had a few, the raucous welcome he received when he arrived Wednesday night would have dispelled them immediately.
A packed room at Dignity Health Sports Park for his introductory news conference Thursday afternoon confirmed to the Mexican striker that he was in the right place.
“You see this room, how full it is,” said Hernandez, whose wife, parents and sister were seated in the front row at the Stadium Club. “You see all the belief that a lot of people have in me, all the value they give me in this league, because, of course, we're close to my country, but I've been playing in this country with my national team since I was 16 years old, a lot of games. I've been treated like that, I've been treated with a lot of value, a lot of respect. I want that. It's coming from the best club in America, in USA.
“Speaking about the effort that they did to bring me speaks about that value, a lot of respect, and that admiration that they have and the confidence, especially. So right now I'm taking this opportunity. It's a win-win-win-win, and every time I'm going to be on the pitch, I'll keep working hard for the club, for the team. I'm going to be doing what I've been loving since I was in the belly of my mother hearing about football, football, football. I love that.”
No, he's not looking to retire, even if he suggested so in his video blog on Wednesday, in which he called this move the “beginning of my retirement.”
Hernandez, 31, whose transfer after a difficult half-season in Sevilla was announced Thursday, is the biggest Mexican soccer star on the planet, a three-time World Cup star, the all-time goals leader for Mexico's national team, and a potent finisher who has had success at Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen. He's looking for more success with LA.
“Speaking about the airport, this press conference, the first time I'm going to play in this stadium in the MLS, everything ... yeah, I'm blessed, I'm touched, I'm happy," he said. "It's incredible. I just want to play, and this league has given me that opportunity, [saying] that I'm one of the best players in the world, and that's why they want me to be here, to try to increase this league in the way they are increasing and they are improving.
“And, as well, this club. You can see the names in this club: Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Giovani Dos Santos, Jonathan Dos Santos, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Landon Donovan, David Beckham — of course, that's the most iconic one, obviously — and then my name is [next to] those. I don't care about comparisons and about which step I am or not [in the evolution of MLS]. I'm just so blessed and so humble that I can feel all of this just by doing football, really. Just by playing football. It's incredible.”
Hernandez, who had his first training session with the Galaxy on Thursday morning, steps into the hole left with the departure of Ibrahimovic, who scored 30 goals last year and 52 in 58 games over two seasons. He said he would give the Galaxy “as many goals as I can” and that he would work diligently to “help this club get the championship,” because to not give his all would be “selfish” and “that's never going to happen, in my point of view, because that man over there,” motioning to his father, former Morelia midfielder Javier “Chicharo” Hernandez, “and that family teach me about this sport that is more than sport, you know.”
“I'm very emotional always, and right now I am,” he added, “because it's a very important move for the league, it's a very important move for MLS, and it's a very important move for my career. Everything I can say is positive. It's win-win, and I'm very glad, I'm very happy that this day came true already.”
He says he has great motivation, expects to adapt quickly to his new surroundings, and has set tall standards that he must work hard to reach.
“How am I not going to be motivated?” he said. “I believe always that when you give someone so much, he doesn't have any excuse to not deliver. Things can come good, things can come bad, but imagine, they're treating me like this: salary-wise, the teammates, the team. Everything is giving and giving and giving. What excuse do I have not to deliver?”
As for his “retirement” comment, perhaps a little context is required.
“It's so simple,” he said when asked about it. “I've been all over the world, and in our country, we are obsessed with drama and excess. So when you say 'retirement,' it's like, 'Ooh, tomorrow he's going to announce his retirement,' you know? They don't really listen to what I said, 'the beginning of the retirement. This retirement could last 10 years. You never know. ...
“It's just the beginning of it. We'll see how long it's going to be. Hopefully, that beginning will last so long and then I will retire at 40, playing in Australia. Just to give an example, because if I mention now Mexico, again: drama.
“I think sometimes they don't really listen to the words, they just want to get what sells something. So just the beginning of retirement, but I was to create that retirement as greatest as I can.”