The signing of Javier Hernandez from Sevilla may be an exciting one, but it’s going to be a major challenge for the striker to replicate the statistics and ability of his predecessor, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, at the LA Galaxy.
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez follows a list of dazzling signings made from Europe’s top leagues by the Los Angeles Galaxy. The likes of David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, Gio Dos Santos and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have all lit up MLS over the years.
Ibrahimovic made arguably the biggest impact in the American top division. Right from the off, Zlatan show rolled into town with widespread adverts in the Los Angeles Times. The arrogance was backed by phenomenal performances and eye-watering statistics that only his crosstown rival Carlos Vela could keep up with and eventually better.
However, Zlatan has passed on the baton. He has returned to his former club AC Milan. And in doing so, he has left a major hole in LA Galaxy’s attack. It is one that Javier Hernandez now has to attempt to fill.
You would struggle to find a game for the Galaxy where Ibrahimovic didn’t find the back of the net. 52 goals in 56 games is a conversion rate to brag about. If anything, I’m surprised he didn’t leave Los Angeles with another double-page advertisement summarising his spell with the club.
Hernandez has initiated his time at LA Galaxy rather differently. His journey in Southern California begins with far more humility than the overpowering Swedish striker he has replaced. And it has not been the smoothest. On the Mexican striker’s YouTube channel, Hernandez admits to his parents in an emotional phone call that this could be the beginning of the end.
‘We’re saying goodbye to a career we put a lot of effort into, and we worked, and I know you guys feel it and we’re gonna look at the bright side and it’s going to be amazing, but whether we like it or not, we are retiring from the European dream,’ he said, fighting back tears whilst conversing with his parents over the phone.
It is easy to look at this as a slap in the face to MLS. I think it’s not. I believe his European dream may have ended when he joined West Ham United, not when he left Sevilla. I believe a move to the Galaxy is a revival of a career, if nothing else. Although, I’m not convinced he’s the man to rival Carlos Vela for top goalscorer this coming season.
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Here’s some stats for your own perusal and why the idea of a European dream ending whilst signing for a London club is a relevant statement. Hernandez was at West Ham for two seasons. H scored 16 goals in 55 games. He went to Sevilla in La Liga at the beginning of this current season in August. He scored one goal in nine games. Before West Ham, in the two seasons he spent in the German Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen, Hernandez had a far more impressive 28 goals in 54 games.
His time in Germany was electric and entirely different from his two-and-a-half seasons since then. It raises a sad notion that leaving Bayer Leverkusen to return to the Premier League was the beginning of the end, not his admitting of this end upon his arrival Stateside.
Chicharito is remembered fondly for what he delivered under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and what he achieved with the club. What he’s managed with the Mexican national team as well is sublime. 52 goals in 109 games. He has without a doubt cemented himself as a national hero back home in Mexico. But these days are well in the rearview mirror.
On a positive note for Hernandez, MLS does lack the defensive abilities that the Premier League and La Liga boast. This opens up the opportunity to score plenty more than he managed at both West Ham and Seville. And the Mexican is at his best when in and around the penalty area, slipping away from defenders with his movement off the ball. Against lesser quality defenders, this elite off-ball anticipation and offensive movement will be hugely effective.
Admittedly, Hernandez has to enjoy the pressure of arriving at an LA Galaxy that needs to replace a 30-goal striker from last season. But by admitting that his European dream has come to an end and now facing lower-level defenders, he might just flourish.