After being plucked from the Mexican Primera Division in the summer of 2010 by Manchester United’s extensive scouting system, the unknown Hernandez, nicknamed Chicharito, or the Little Pea, a reference to his footballing father of the same name, was thrown into the smouldering cauldron that is the Barclays Premier League. Many players struggle to acclimatise to the demands of English football in their debut season, but Chicharito flourished in his new surroundings. An impressive return of 13 goals in 27 league starts established the forward as a fan favourite at England’s most decorated club, and Hernandez was now considered a big name in world football. 10 strikes in each of his following two seasons marked a steady trickle of goals, but with the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Hernandez became a victim of the infamous David Moyes tenure.
United’s failures that season led to Chicharito registering only 4 goals in 42 appearances, an abysmal record for a player of his prowess in front of goal. Maybe it is a curse the club casts over its Latin American strikers, with Radamel Falcao succumbing to a similar fate this season, and Diego Forlan struggling in Manchester in previous years. The arrival of Louis Van Gaal signalled the end for Hernandez, but a stroke of fortune saw Real Madrid swoop for the player, with Los Blancos securing his signature on a one year loan deal. Many journalists have coined the phrase ‘swapping one bench for another’ regarding Hernandez this season, but a switch to a club of Real’s stature proved difficult to ignore.
With Real Madrid announcing that they would not be making an offer following the expiration of the loan deal, the little Mexican finds himself returning to a club which no longer requires his services, and the player’s agent will be working hard to find his client new employment before the start of next season. Although not deemed strong enough to lead the line for the powerhouses of United and Real, suitors will be queuing round the corner for Hernandez’s signature. A number of European and Premier League clubs have been linked, but which move would be right for the player, who at the age of 26 should now be entering the pinnacle of his career? His goal tallies in previous seasons with United showcase his scoring ability in English football, and 39 international strikes only serve to add to his credentials. Hernandez is a poacher, capable of taking chances, and will be available this summer for a cut price fee due to United’s willingness to sell. With these factors in mind, two clubs jump to the forefront as sides which are desperate for a player of Hernandez’s nature; West Ham United and Everton.
West Ham United
Hernandez will look to join a side with European aspirations, and a club that can provide that next season is West Ham United. Having qualified for the Europa League through the Fair Play League, West Ham must endure every round of the arduous qualification process. The club have the strength to breeze through the early rounds, and with a new manager set to be in place next season, owners David Gold and David Sullivan will give the new man in charge financial clout in the summer transfer market. A move to the Olympic Stadium for the start of the 2016 season only adds to the allure of West Ham, and with a large, fanatic fan base, the club has the potential to establish themselves as consistent European contenders. West Ham already boasts the likes of Diafra Sakho and World Cup hero Enner Valencia in their ranks, and with the rejuvenated Stewart Downing creating 84 chances this season, Hernandez would be provided with ample opportunity to get his name on the score sheet. Perhaps the reason Hernandez failed to assert himself at previous clubs was due to his lack of explosiveness which is a key characteristic of modern day top club forwards.
Take Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo for example. Both players are able to summon world class moments of pure brilliance to inspire their teams to victory, a trait that Hernandez has not consistently exhibited. West Ham looked set to qualify for Europe through their league position, yet fell away from the pack towards the end of the season, and finished the season bottom of the Premier League form table. Injuries, combined with the loss of form of key players all contributed to their demise, and perhaps the depth of their squad was tested this season, a test which the club severely failed. Investment in squad depth and quality this season may see a more prolonged push for the top 8, and a player of Hernandez’s quality would certainly add such attributes to the Hammers’ squad. Alongside a dominating and powerful strike partner in the form of Valencia or Englishman Andy Carroll (when he is fit), and with assistance from midfielders such as Downing and Morgan Amalfitano, Hernandez could establish himself as a regular goal scorer in East London, and perhaps earn himself a move back to one of Europe’s elite.
The club is accustomed to doing transfer business with Manchester United having seen the likes of Phil Neville and Darron Gibson depart for Merseyside in years gone by, and following in the footsteps of the academy graduates may provide the spark Hernandez needs to relight his career in English football. In the past 13 seasons, Everton have only finished outside the top 8 three times, so this season’s 11th placed finish will have disappointed all of those associated with the club. After the £28 million purchase of Belgian Romelu Lukaku last summer, expectation was high, but despite a relatively quiet campaign in which he found the target on 10 occasions, Everton have acquired a player that can lead the line for the club for many years to come. It cannot be argued that Lukaku has been failed in his endeavours by his striking colleagues, as Ivorian Arouna Kone only mustered a solitary goal this campaign. If Everton are to once again challenge for the top 6 as they have in recent years, they need a player that can complement Lukaku’s powerful play. Arguably in a similar mould to West Ham’s Valencia and Carroll, Lukaku’s 6”3 frame makes him a menace in the air, a trait which Hernandez may thrive on. Chicharito needs a strong number 9 alongside him to hold up the ball and cause chaos amongst opposition defences, and Everton fans may be assured that he will finish a high percentage of the chances presented to him. They say the best partnerships cannot exist on all take and no give, and Hernandez has plenty of attributes to his game that may also propel Lukaku back into the hottest young striker in European football he was once considered when Chelsea acquired him in an £18 million raid on Belgian giants Anderlecht.
Hernandez possesses strikers instincts, and although he lacks the explosive capabilities of Luis Suarez, the movement he shows often mesmerises and bamboozles the opposition in a way similar to the Barcelona forward, which not only creates space for himself, but also for those in and around the area. This will allow for opportunities to be crafted for both strikers, and Everton may find the extra fire power propels them up the Premier League table. The pair have the potential to form a deadly partnership in the blue half of Merseyside, and with James McCarthy and Gareth Barry pulling the strings from midfield; Hernandez will be able to play off the shoulder of the last man, allowing him the chance to once again establish himself as one of the best chance takers in the England.
Chicharito was given the opportunity to shine in England, and in the end was perhaps treated a little unfairly by those at Old Trafford. The Mexican worked hard for the team, and as with many Manchester United strikers over the years, was the scapegoat of the club when the team was failing to muster form. A cameo season in Madrid has not helped the striker’s career, and Hernandez needs to find himself a team that can guarantee a consistent spot in the starting eleven. Too often Hernandez has found himself allowing his career to stagnate on the bench of Europe’s top clubs, and this summer is his opportunity to find himself a club in which he can forge a new identity, and become the Javier Hernandez that promised so much in his first season in England. Everton and West Ham are both prestigious clubs, and a move to either side will assist in resurrecting his career, and all that remains to be seen this summer is which club will take the plunge, and harvest the Little Pea from Old Trafford.