This morning, Consolation Goal awoke to the news that Manchester United had signed 21 year old Mexican strike Javier Hernández Balcazar. Like most of you, the first words out of my mouth was “who?” – and so we set about researching the boy they call “Chicharito”.
It has taken Javier Hernández 21 years to finally emerge from the shadow of his father. Also called Javier Hernández, but better known as el Chicharo – “The Pea”, Hernández senior represented Mexico during their 1986 hosting of the World Cup. So it is with great regret that I inform you that, in tribute to his father, Manchester United’s new South American sensation is affectionately reffered to as Chicharito. Yes, that means “The Little Pea”.
Now, admittedly, such a moniker does not strike fear into the hearts of opposition players. He is no Stuart “Psycho” Pearce, Marco “Mad Dog” Tardelli, or Andoni “Butcher of Bilbao” Goikoetxe. But then again, he’s not that type of player. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from our delving into The Little Pea’s past, it’s that he’s a goalscorer.
Having signed for current club Chivas Guadalajara at 9 years old – a club for which his grandfather is forever etched in history having scored the clubs 500th ever goals – Chicharito signed professional terms at 15. He broke into the first team in 2006, making his debut in a Primera División Apertura clash with Necaxa. The then 18 year old grabbed a goal after being on the field for no more than 5 minutes, signaling his intentions that in Chicarito, Chivas had a player not content to coast to success on his families name.
Despite his impressive introduction to first team football, Chivas then-manager José Manuel de la Torres, followed by a selection of succesive managers, were cautious in their reliability on such a young player, only allowing him 15 appearance over the next two years. It was at the dawn of the 2009 Clausura – the summer half of Mexico’s 2008/2009 season – that Hernandez would begin to feature reguarly for Chivaz, grabbing 4 goals in 8 starts and 7 subtitute appearances for his side and establishing himself as a first team regular.
The 2009 Apertura – the winter half of the 2009/2010 season – saw Chicharito find the goalscorer within, plundering 11 goals having featured in all 17 of Chivas games. He would go on to finish joint third top scorer, level with América’s Salvador Cabanas, and become a nominee for Striker of the Tournament, but Chivas would miss out on a spot in the Liguilla playoffs. He has carried his form into this season’s Clausura stage, grabbing 10 goals (including 3 braces) and 2 assists in 10 starts and 1 subtitute appearance. It could well be that United decided to sign him having been present at Chivas 6-2 win over Santos last month, where he grabbed 1 goal, set up 2, and won a penalty for a 4th.
His excellent form has seen Chicharito make a name for himself on the international stage, having taken part in the 2007 under 20 World Cup where he grabbed just the one goal against Gambia, before being knocked out by Argentina in the quarter final. He has performed sensationally in friendlies for the senior side, helping himself to 4 goals and an assist in 4 caps against Colombia, Bolivia, New Zealand and Korea.
Although coach Javier Aguirre has urged caution with regards to Hernández fledgling career, Hernández looks set to play at this summer’s World Cup, with some Mexico fans insisting he will lead the line in a 4-2-3-1 fomation. 8 friendlies between now and South Africa will go a long way to determine his value to the squad, but a big money move to Manchester United will have done his chances the world of good.
A quick and agile 2-footed player, Chicharito has displayed excellent instincts and a maturity beyond his years on his way to establishing himself as Mexico’s top striker. Despite being only 5′ 9″, he has the aerial ability and heading prowess to make a name for himself in a physical league such as England. Hosts South Africa, Uruguay and France, who will consider themself favourites for the top spot in Group A this summer, will have to be wary of a striker who likes to make the penalty box his own. Man Utd have already realised the potential of Chicharito. In South Africa this summer, the rest of us could follow suit.