He came, he scored, he conquered: Javier 'Chicharito' Hernández brought goals aplenty and a sizeable sprinkling of Mexican flair during two noteworthy seasons in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen.
With Germany facing Gold Cup champions Mexico in Philadelphia on 18 October, memories of the man nicknamed 'little pea' - so called because he is the son of a footballing father nicknamed Chicharo on account of his green eyes - will be rekindled for many.
The current captain of LA Galaxy and Mexico's all-time record goalscorer has happy recollections of a successful two-season stay with the Werkself, in which he scored 39 goals and provided nine assists in 76 games across all competitions.
The Guadalajara-born star's Germany adventure began back in 2015 when the then Leverkusen sporting manager Jonas Boldt brought the possibility of moulding a team around the Mexican attacking livewire to Bayer's former sporting director, Rudi Völler. With Hernández ending a loan spell at Real Madrid and unlikely to receive No.1 status at Manchester United, B04 saw an opportunity to make Chicharito their main man and one of the central draws in the Bundesliga.
Watch: Chicharito, a Bundesliga hero
"I was in my office when Jonas came in with a couple of coffees," Völler recalled. "He looked at me and said, 'We might be able to bring Chicharito to Bayer. We're going to offer him consistent game time while building a team around him so that he can shine.'" The Spanish-speaking Boldt convinced both Völler and, crucially, Chicharito, and on 31 August 2015, the club announced the signing of their new striker on a three-year deal.
Just four days after making his Bundesliga debut against Darmstadt on 12 September, the Mexican sensation scored in a 4-1 UEFA Champions League win over BATE Borisov. Chicharito's first Bundesliga goal followed in late September, when his five-star performance for the Werkself earned a 1-0 win against Mainz.
Chicharito had hit the ground running and fans both at the BayArena and across Germany were delighting in the arrival of one of Mexico's finest footballing exports. "The key thing is that I am playing a lot of football - and from the start - because that is what I love most," he explained of his electric beginning to life in Germany. "I think for most people in the world, if they are doing what they love then you’ll have more good things in life than bad."
Chicharito's first season at Leverkusen would end as an immense success. The side from North Rhine-Westphalia finished third in the Bundesliga, ensuring automatic qualification for the following campaign's Champions League. Excelling in a team that contained the likes of Julian Brandt, Karim Bellarabi, Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Bernd Leno, the 5'9" forward scored 17 goals and provided three assists in just 28 top-flight games.
He stretched that to 26 goals in 43 games in all competitions and was unsurprisingly named in the Bundesliga's Team of the Season for 2015-16 having won the Player of the Month award three months in a row.
"He was a goalscoring machine," former Bayer midfielder and the club's current managing director of sport Simon Rolfes recalled of Chicharito's time at the BayArena. "It was one touch and goal; really incredible," the 41-year-old added. "His goalscoring abilities inside the area were outstanding."
Watch: Chicharito's top-5 Bundesliga goals
Despite breaking his hand at the beginning of the 2016/17 season, Chicharito's goalscoring exploits continued. He netted a superb hat-trick against Mainz with four shots on target in a 3-2 Leverkusen win on 24 September. His fourth shot in the game hit a post. The Mexican's strike partner at the time, Kevin Volland, later said: "I don't know anybody who is as good as he is in front of goal."
Injury and a slight dip in form prevented Chicharito from emulating his feats of the previous term but the forward nonetheless ended with 13 goals and four assists from 36 games. He also became the Mexican with most Champions League games that term while at the end of the campaign, Chicharito scored in an international against Croatia to become his country's all-time leading marksman.
He left Leverkusen to join English Premier League side West Ham United in July 2017 but made sure to send everyone connected with Leverkusen a fond farewell on his social media platforms.
"I want to thank Jonas Boldt, Roger Schmidt and Rudi Völer for such an amazing and tailored experience," Chicharito wrote. "Big thanks to each player and staff member from @bayer04fussball and the warmest "thank you" of all goes to every single Bayer fan for two years of unconditional support that has strongly contributed to the person and football player I am today. I feel honoured to have played in the @bundesliga_en and having defended one of the most important teams in Germany! THANK YOU!"
Javier 'Chicharito' Hernández's time in the Bundesliga may have been brief, but it was always exciting.
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