While the LA Galaxy are seemingly set to sign Javier Hernandez, several MLS teams will rue the disaster of missing out on Chicharito.
Javier Hernandez is a defining signing. Perhaps unlike any other player in Major League Soccer history, the Mexican hero, known affectionately as Chicharito, will change the fortunes of whichever team he signs for, on and off the pitch.
Now 31, he is entering the twilight of his prime — and certainly, his glistening goalscoring records of his Manchester United years are long behind him now. But his off-field profile is as great as ever, his status in Mexico is Messianic, and he still has plenty enough ability and athleticism to dominate MLS.
These reasons have led the Los Angeles Galaxy into heavy pursuit of the Sevilla centre-forward. Per Mike Hiserman of the LA Times, the LA Galaxy have entered into talks with Chicharito and Sevilla and are nearing the completion of a historic deal.
He will not come cheap, Sevilla having only signed him in the summer. But whatever the Galaxy have to pay to prise Hernandez away from Europe will be renumerated inexorably in profile, ticket sales, and commercial success. Hernandez is arguably the most famous and recognisable individual in Mexico, no matter where their fame stems from. His jersey sales have consistently been among the highest in the United States for the past decade, despite having never played for a U.S. club.
The Galaxy understand all of this, and they are quite happy to ensure they are the benefactors. Hernandez will not replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his sensational 52 goals in 56 games on the pitch, but he will far surpass the Swede off it, which is where the Galaxy have led MLS like no other team throughout the past decade.
But while LA will bask in the Chicharito sun, there are other teams that should be questioning their own operations for seemingly not even rivalling the Galaxy for Hernandez’s signature. The Houston Dynamo have long been a hesitant franchise to invest. With a strong Mexican population in Houston and a stadium that is increasingly difficult to fill, Hernandez would have been the perfect big-name pull for a team losing grip on its city and market.
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Austin FC, I am sure, would have been desperate to secure Hernandez. Per a 2010 census, 35.1% of Austin’s population is Hispanic. Houston, meanwhile, comes in at 43.8% and Los Angeles at 48.5%. The main stumbling block for Austin is that they do not start MLS play until 2021. Hernandez would have to find a club for a one-year rental. It seems unlikely.
And then there is the Chicago Fire. Only Los Angeles has more Mexican-born immigrants than Chicago in the United States. Per the Migration Policy Institute, 677,000 Mexican-born immigrants live in the metro area of Chicago, a 7.2% share of the entire metro population — Los Angeles, for comparison, has 1,751,000 Mexican-born immigrants, a population share of 13.6%.
Given the Fire’s turbulent offseason to this point, with a contentious and highly criticised rebrand, slated logo, and move back to Soldier Field without the fans to fill the gaping stadium, acquiring a name like Hernandez that would undoubtedly bring large swathes of Mexican fans through the Soldier Field doors seems like a no-brainer. And with a roster re-build underway, having rid of all three designated players already, the Fire had plenty of opportunity and motive to bring Chicharito in. And yet, they didn’t.
Perhaps Hernandez would have chose the glitz and glamour of LA and the Galaxy anyway. Maybe the Galaxy were simply too forceful in their approach. But missing on a league-defining signing like Hernandez is disastrous for many teams in Major League Soccer. And, as they seemingly always are, the LA Galaxy will be the benefactors.