Jonas Boldt (over a cup of coffee): “We should go for Chicharito.”
Rudi Völler: “Ok, I’ll look into it.”
And so began the journey of Mexico's all-time highest goalscorer to the Bundesliga…
Chicharito had spent the previous campaign on loan at Real Madrid from English record champions Manchester United, and his time at Old Trafford was coming to an end. Yet how was it that Leverkusen were able to jump to the front of the queue for the signature of a player who had won titles in England and Spain, as well as with Mexico?
That owes much to the drive and determination of the club’s sporting manager Jonas Boldt and sporting director Rudi Völler.
Boldt, a Bayer fan since childhood, has been involved with the club since 2003, initially working in the youth department and then graduating to scouting.
Born to a German father and a Chilean mother, Boldt’s fluent Spanish has enabled the club to unearth a number of talented players from South America. Chilean duo Charles Aranguiz and Arturo Vidal - the latter of whom Boldt first saw play in a FIFA U-20 World Cup match in 2007 - are strong cases in point.
Boldt has become a key liaison figure for Latin American players at Leverkusen, and back in 2015, he wanted to add the most high-profile of names to his list of transfer accomplishments.
Völler can clearly recollect how Chicharito’s signing came to pass. "I was in my office when Jonas came in with two cups of coffee,” he said. “Without wasting time, he looked at me and said: 'We can bring Chicharito to Bayer."”
It was an ambitious plan, but Boldt had the application to match. "We’ll give him continuity, and we’ll put together a team so that he can shine," he declared.
Völler was on board, as was the then-coach Roger Schmidt and, crucially, Chicharito himself. The Little Pea saw big opportunity at Leverkusen: a chance to play a central role in a young, enterprising and ambitious side. Qualification for the UEFA Champions League play-offs (which the club successfully negotiated with a two-legged win over Lazio) also helped make up his mind.
Since arriving in the Rhineland, Chicharito has emerged as one of the most significant signings in recent Bundesliga history, scoring 39 times in 76 outings, including 28 in just 54 Bundesliga games, and bringing a legion of fans from the Mexico and the United States to boot.
Watch: Chicharito netted a classy brace against Frankfurt! on Matchday 20
With him in the side, Leverkusen secured automatic Champions League qualification for the 2016/17 season and reached the knockout rounds of the competition, losing to Atletico Madrid in the last 16. At international level, meanwhile, Chicharito continues to write new pages in the history books, becoming Mexico's all-time leading goalscorer in May 2017.
At 28 years of age, Chicharito is entering his prime. Boldt’s steadfast belief in bringing a true superstar to the club has paid handsome dividends indeed.
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