Cologne - The Bundesliga and, more specifically, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, have a new star straight out of the international top drawer in their ranks, in the form of Javier Hernandez.
More familiar to followers of the world game as Chicharito (‘Little Pea’) – the nickname he wears on his shirt – the 27-year-old Mexican forward joined the Werkself from Manchester United on the final day of the summer transfer window, signing up on a contract valid through to June 2018.
The decision to join Bayer “wasn’t a difficult one,” Hernandez said at his official unveiling; “Right from the start, the management made it clear they really wanted me, and I would be an important part of the team.” That in itself is no small matter for a player who spent last season farmed out to Real Madrid CF where, as over much of the latter part of his initial four years at Old Trafford, he had been unable to pin down a regular starting berth. “I’d like to feel important again, and happy,” he stressed.
Schmidt’s ideal frontman
At Leverkusen, he will be given every opportunity to feel both. In Hernandez, the UEFA Champions League contenders have acquired a forward who “really gets stuck in for the team, works the channels well, drops deep and knows his way around the penalty box,” said Roger Schmidt; In short, “He’ll make us harder to defend against.” That versatility is particularly appealing to the head coach, who now has a second top-level central striker to ease the burden on the ever-reliable Stefan Kießling.
Despite his restricted match-time over the past couple of seasons – when he was also competing for a frontline place with the world-class likes of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema – Hernandez’s scoring returns make for impressive reading. In 157 competitive outings all-told for Manchester United, he netted 59 goals himself and laid on 20 more. Last season at Real, he managed seven goals and as many assists in 23 league appearances, the bulk of them off the bench.
‘Little Pea’ with big-time credentials
Not bad at all, but the role of impact sub is not enough, either, for a player who enjoys superstar status across much of Central and South America, as well as in his native Mexico – as testified by an immense Twitter following of over five-and-a-half million. “I’ve played in the English Premier League and Spanish Primera Division, two of Europe’s top leagues. Now I want to test myself in the Bundesliga as well,” he said. Not to mention the added bonus of group stage participation in the Champions League, where the Guadalajara native has also shown his mettle, chipping in with four goals in United’s run to the final in 2011.
In signing such a renowned star, very much in his footballing prime, Leverkusen have issued a clear statement of their own, namely that they have no intention of leaving it to the likes of VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund to try to challenge FC Bayern München’s domestic supremacy. The transfer, Schmidt concluded, was “a great solution for all involved”. Not so great, very possibly, for opposing Bundesliga defences from here on in.