There is no doubting that Javier Hernandez has learned a lot during his time at Real Madrid. He has struggled and matured more in the past year than he has in his entire career.
He was a star at Chivas de Guadalajara in Liga MX, and at Manchester United he was one of the most productive strikers in the league. He came of the bench just as often as he started at United, and everyone understood that Chicharito was a player whose ability had to be respected once he took the field. Real Madrid was, for the first time in his career, a place where his talent guaranteed him absolutely nothing. His playing time reflected that reality. Hernandez only made 23 league appearances for Los Blancos, in which he racked up 871’ of playing time, not even 10 full games’ worth. He was just another cog in one of the best attacking machines in the world. His talents were made to look average, and he rarely got a chance to click with his teammates.
Now, with his loan spell at Real Madrid officially over, Hernandez is looking for one thing and one thing only: consistent playing time, the likes of which has avoided him for the past year.
“Above all, I want to join a team where I can play and have minutes. If it's at Manchester United or another team, I will be equally happy. My priority is to play,” said Hernandez to the Spanish newspaper Marca.
"I went through hard times but also experienced beautiful moments. I would be delighted if [new Real Madrid coach Rafa] Benitez called me to say he wanted my services, but what any player wants is to play.”
At 27 years old, Hernandez’ priorities are in order. He is entering his athletic prime, and is not in a position to sit back and wait for his turn, nor is he still trying to find who he is as a player. He has already shown time and time again what can be expected of him: a prolific scoring rate, if not much else. He is a striker. Not a playmaker, not a winger, but a player born to get as close to the goal as possible and put the ball in the back of the net. It is simple, and he is very talented at what he does.
Talent, of course, is only half of the equation. Character is required to join a starting XI, or at least one the likes of which Hernandez should join. It is pointless for him to go somewhere where his talent would allow him to stroll into the starting XI. He needs try for a starting spot at club in the league of Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, or Southampton. At clubs of this level, Chicharito will have the most demanded from him, without the restrictingly high expectations of Real Madrid. In short, he will be challenged, but a failure won't see him waste season, withering away on the bench. Hernandez must not be afraid of challenging himself, and I don't think he is.
The man is too consistent to be fearful. I am not saying he does not fear, I am saying he does not let it affect him. In combination with his talent, that is how he put forth league scoring rates league scoring rates of a goal every 124 minutes without getting settled at Real Madrid, and a goal every 96 minutes at Manchester United. And now he has seen the worst thing that any coach will ever be able to throw at him - the bench - and overcome it to score in the Champions League semifinals.
Chicharito is talented, does not let fear affect his play, and if he challenges himself at the right club, he can prove that he has strength of character. These are all qualities of a great leader, and that is exactly what Chicharito can become. A leader for his club, and a leader for his country.
Leaders are often the most talented, especially in the world of sports, but that is not always the case. For El Tri, Carlos Vela is more talented, Jonathan and Giovani dos Santos are better all-around talents, and it is quite possible that Jesus Corona could end up being the best of all, but amidst all of those players, the one rock has been Hernandez. He has steadily risen through out his career, unlike Jonathan and Giovani, and has never abandoned El Tri, unlike Vela. He is 27, a prime age for a leader to step into posisition, and he has seniority over Corona. Rafa Marquez is fading into retirement. Hector Herrera could also one day captain El Tri, but he does not command the attention of his nation the way Chicharito does. Let Chicharito prove himself this next year, and we could be looking at the most qualified leader of El Tri that Mexico has.
Ofcourse, the game still has to be played, and a transfer still has to be made. I hope against hope that Hernandez won't stay at Madrid, for his own sake, unless Rafa Benitez guarantees him enough playing time, and that seems closer to impossible than improbable.
It is time to expect greatness from Chicharito, and he must find it outside of Los Galacticos.
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