Chicharito seizes chance to be centre of the Galaxy

CARSON, CALIFORNIA (AP) — Javier Hernández has been to the top of the football world. He spent the last 10 years in Europe’s top leagues, winning trophies and representing some of the biggest clubs.

Yet from Manchester United to Sevilla, the Mexican striker better known as Chicharito often struggled to get consistent playing time.

Whether his path was blocked by Wayne Rooney’s brilliance or a manager’s lack of confidence in him, Hernández rarely got to show his full talent. When he wasn’t fighting injuries, he often served as a key backup instead of a centerpiece.

That’s the main reason the 31-year-old Hernández agreed to return to North America with the LA Galaxy, who introduced their latest superstar acquisition yesterday.

Chicharito is the centre of the Galaxy now, and he is thrilled.

“I just want to play,” Hernández said in his distinctively rapid bilingual delivery.

Los Angeles Galaxy’s Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández (R) speaks with Jonathan dos Santos during a training session in Carson, California. PHOTO: AP

“This league and this team, it’s giving me that opportunity (to show) that I’m one of the best players around the world. That’s why they want me to be here, to try to improve this league and this team.

“It’s a win-win-win-win. I know I’ll be on the pitch most of the time if I keep working hard for the club. I’m going to be doing what I loved since I was in the belly of my mother.”

With Chicharito playing in only nine games so far this season for Sevilla, the timing was finally perfect for this long-rumoured combination of player and club.

While the Galaxy made major improvements and reached the playoffs last season behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s franchise-record 30 goals, they desperately needed another topflight striker at the centre of coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s attack when Ibrahimovic chose to return to Europe. Unlike most Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs, the Galaxy have the money to go get elite talents, even in the January transfer window.

Hernández is well aware of the five-time MLS champions’ history of landing world-class players, reeling off his own list of favourites: “Robbie Keane. Steven Gerrard. Giovani Dos Santos. Jonathan Dos Santos. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Landon Donovan. David Beckham, that’s the most iconic one, obviously. And then my name is over those. I’m just so blessed and so humble that I can be a part of all this.”

The speedy, shifty Chicharito likely fits Barros Schlelotto’s style even better than the hulking Zlatan, and the Argentine coach worked aggressively behind the scenes to land Hernández.

While Chicharito’s European career got off to a strong start at Manchester United under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, he repeatedly struggled elsewhere when managers clearly didn’t believe in his abilities.

“More than anybody, Guillermo was involved in making it happen,” said Galaxy General Manager Dennis Te Kloese, who has known Chicharito since the player’s childhood. “In the end, it had to do with Javier’s interest in being a part of this organisation because he’s going to be in a team and with a coach who has a lot of trust in him.”