Mexico’s all-time leading scorer joins the LA Galaxy with many expectations. Can Chicharito make his poaching a positive?
CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy made a big move for North American soccer now that they’ve convinced Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, to join the club ahead of the 2020 season.
The Galaxy announced the deal this morning and will place the 31-year-old striker at the top of their formation for the upcoming 2020 season. And all the hopes of taking a step forward for the club, after making it through the first round of the playoffs in 2019, are realistically at his feet.
“Javier has consistently scored goals in top leagues throughout the world and has been his country’s most successful player over the last decade,” said LA Galaxy General Manager Dennis te Kloese. “He is a competitor who has proven success at the highest level and has scored the most goals ever of one of the best teams in CONCACAF. We think he can be one of Major League Soccer’s best attacking threats and help our team in multiple ways. We are excited to bring Javier to Los Angeles, and we look forward to him representing this city and our fans as a member of the LA Galaxy.”
Hernandez, who just moved to Spanish side Sevilla in September for a reported $8.7 million, will make his second move of the Calendar year and play for his third team in seven months — West Ham, Sevilla, and the Galaxy.
The deal reportedly involves a $9.3-million transfer fee – a record for the Galaxy – and somewhere around $6-million in guaranteed salary for three years (with an option year at the end of the 2022 season). However, there seems to be some room in the contract that could pay Hernadez up to $1.5-million more if specific benchmarks are met. The $7.5-million would be the highest-paid salary in MLS history.
Hernandez will join a Galaxy side that made the playoffs for the first time in two years last season and will be without their leading goalscorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic who scored 52 goals in 56 games. Ibrahimovic departed the club at the end of the 2019 season to sign with AC Milan in Serie A.
Chicharito is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday (6:50 PM, Tom Bradley International Terminal, LAX) and will be introduced at a team press conference on Thursday afternoon at Dignity Health Sports Park after training with the club that morning.
“The LA Galaxy continue to pursue top talent across the world that will improve our team,” said LA Galaxy President Chris Klein. “Javier is one of the most successful players in our region and an iconic figure in this community. The LA Galaxy have represented Los Angeles and have been the benchmark in Major League Soccer since 1996, and our pursuit of the world’s best players for our club will continue to play a part in our success. We are excited to add Javier to our club and look forward to him representing the LA Galaxy in our stadium and in the Los Angeles community.”
The big question, however, is how Hernandez will fit in with the Galaxy. Te Kloese landed Aleksandar Katai to play on the right side of a 4-3-3 formation replacing the out-of-contract Romain Alessandrini in the formation. Cristian Pavon, acquired from Boca Juniors last summer, will fit in on the other side of the attack. So that leaves Hernandez in the center of the formation – his preferred position – as the target man, the finisher, and the poacher.
And throughout his career, Hernandez has been called a poacher — someone who can’t create his own shots, but generally is found in the right place at the right time to score goals. There’s always a negative connotation associated with it. But in reality, there shouldn’t be.
With Hernandez’s ability to finish the final ball, he should be seen as a positive in a league where defense is often a second thought. And with the respective playmaking abilities of Katai, Pavon, and midfielders Sebastian Lleget, and Jonathan dos Santos, Hernandez should be in the right place at the right time a lot in MLS.
Hernandez scored 26 times when playing for Guadalajara, scored 37 goals for Manchester United, seven goals for Real Madrid, 28 goals with Bayer Leverkusen, 16 with West Ham United, and just once in nine appearances for Sevilla. In total, Chicharito has scored more than 200 goals during his career for both club and country.
But if those numbers only prove one thing it’s that he has scored everywhere he’s gone. Why should MLS and Los Angeles be any different?
To be fair to both Hernandez and the Galaxy, this is also about courting a large section of Southern California and its nearly $6-million Mexican and Mexican American’s. And it’s also about converting some of the eyes of the region’s most-watched soccer league — Mexico’s Liga MX — to MLS. And when El Trafico kicks off this year, expect some huge numbers as the region turns to watch LAFC’s Carlos Vela take on the Galaxy’s dos Santos and Chicharito.
But big-name Galaxy signings have always checked multiple boxes for achievements both on and off the field — the Galaxy aren’t doing anything new here, and they certainly aren’t “reacting” as so many media types will have you believe.
But their metric for success is easy — win on the field, produce on the field, show dedication to the team, and then let whatever else happens off the field happen. Let MLS and the Galaxy count all that money.
When those metrics go awry, however, you get players like Giovani dos Santos and Steven Gerrard — both successes off the field for the Galaxy in terms of jersey sales and marketing, but both falling well short of passable players in the stadium.
It will be up to Chicharito to produce on the field so that off the field, the Galaxy can promote their most significant asset. And it will be up to Chicharito to find a place on the Galaxy that will let him be the star the fans, the team, and the league are expecting.