In part one of our exclusive interview with Jose Luis Real Casillas, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez’s former mentor and head coach at CD Chivas Guadalajara, the veteran strategist discussed the striker’s early years and development at his hometown club.
Here, in the second of a three-part series, Real Casillas analyses Chicharito’s move to Bayer 04 Leverkusen, his impact since arriving in Germany and what he would ask the Werkself forward to improve if he were still his coach.
Sitting in his large ground floor office at Chivas’ Verde Valle base in Guadalajara, Real Casillas smiles when asked what he makes of Chicharito’s time in the Bundesliga so far: “I never doubted that Javier would be as successful as he’s been in Germany, but I thought it would take him longer to do so because the Bundesliga is different to the other leagues he’s played in. Logically you’d think he’d need to adapt to his new surroundings in the first three months and after that he’d be Chicharito again, but no - he did it right from the off!”
He attributes much of that ability to hit the ground running to Leverkusen’s desire to bring him to the club in the first place. “Everyone knows that when somebody puts their faith in you and tells you you’re important, then it gives you a completely different kind of confidence. He arrived at Leverkusen and found his place and I think that has been a very important factor in giving him greater security in a short space of time.”
Nevertheless, Real Casillas is in no doubt that the player’s on-field talents would inevitably have shone through anyway. “Javier has different qualities out on the pitch,” he said, readily going into greater detail. “The reason he finished as top scorer with us, and one of his greatest strengths is his ability to lose his marker. His movement off the ball is very intelligent. He’s always in the right place to be able to score. You can teach that skill, but with him it’s natural. That kind of quality is very rare and it’s what sets him apart from all the strikers in the world he’s competed against.”
'We still record Javier's goals to show our youngsters'
‘El Professor’ has also seen clear improvements in Chicharito’s game since he last worked with him in Guadalajara, citing his strength in holding up the ball as a new facet that makes the Leverkusen No7 more “unpredictable”. Furthermore, Real Casillas is effusive in his praise for Chicharito’s work ethic.
“Javier’s constantly on the move,” he explained. “He’s never static and that’s another thing that sets him apart. There are some players who give 60 per cent in certain situations, while others give 70 or 80 per cent. Not Javier. He always gives 100 per cent and that’s very valuable. Every time he’s involved you know he’s given his all.”
Indeed, so impressed is Real Casillas with his former protege that the Chivas youth academy still record Chicharito’s matches for Leverkusen and show clips to the club’s young players as part of their training programme: “We tape his goals and the way he moves too. It gives us great joy to say, "look, this is how Javier moves" and that motivates them. In fact, I can tell you that here at Chivas our best young players are all strikers in Javier’s position, partly because Javier’s influence is a great motivation for them.”
'Javier can still do better'
Nonetheless, having been a top-level coach for over 25 years, Real Casillas was quick to identify an area where Chicharito can still improve: playing with his back to goal. “He’s being marked increasingly tightly, especially right now, and centre-backs are paying close attention to him. That means he has to play with his back to goal a lot. I think he could work on finding space with his first touch, rather than just laying it off, in order to take his marker out of the game. I think that’s what Javier can still do better.
“If Javier was in front of me I’d tell him: ‘Javier, score more goals like that one you hit against Tecos in 2010. It was amazing. He had his back to goal with a defender behind him, but he knocked it to one side with his first touch and hit it into the top corner.”
With just nine Bundesliga games under his belt so far, the 27-year-old still has plenty of time to fine-tune his style to the rigours of Germany’s top-flight. And once he does, Real Casillas - and countless others across the globe – will undoubtedly take even greater delight in witnessing the exploits of one of Mexico’s greatest exports.
Jose Luis Real Casillas was speaking to bundesliga.com's Jonathan Stockitt.