On any given day, depending on who you talk to, Javier Hernandez can be Pelé, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff... or a guy who's deemed not worthy for an amateur five-a-side. The truth is, CONCACAF has not seen a player the likes of Chicharito for a long time. A talented player whose physical gifts are also aided by charisma and a squeaky-clean aura. Heck, world football is lacking in those types of descriptions.
Even then, the media constructs around us insist that a game-by-game analysis isn't useful – it's necessary. Thus we get an ad nauseum flow of comparisons, breakdowns and extremist opinions from people (yeah, like us) who get paid to talk about this on a daily basis. Let's get one thing clear: Javier Hernandez is not the second coming of Hugo Sanchez, nor is he a glorified Luis Angel Landin.
Yes, he's closer to Hugol than Houston's DP bust, but in today's footballing world, dominated by tiki-taka and the beautiful, romanticized picture of the game, the classic one-touch striker has become strangely underrated.
Javier Hernandez's job is to score. Nothing more, nothing less. Much like a goalkeeper, his performance can be rated with obvious, concrete data that doesn't require Opta to shine a light on. You won't read Xavi-like statistics on Chicharito, stipulating that the Mexican striker has completed a ridiculous amount of passes or has a higher successful completion rate than an adult playing amongst children.
No, Chicharito's job is both simpler and all the more difficult. How have we come to deride goalscoring as a 'lucky' tactic? There was a time where goals like the first one Chicharito scored on Chelsea (with his face) or the one he put into Stoke City's net (with the back of his neck) were lauded. Goles son amores, they would say in Mexico. Goals breed love.
Well, nowadays, it's not just the ones who get paid to talk about this who dive into mucky comparisons. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo barely have enough to do with each other to be placed side-by-side to one another, but it's downright ridiculous to have guys like Chicharito mired in those discussions. In the age of do-it-all attackers, guys like Hernandez are useful relics, commodities which can still be the difference between silverware and also-rans.
The attacks have gotten more personal. English and Italian tabloids spend the better part of August and September shopping Chicharito to most European clubs following the purchase of Robin van Persie. It got so bad that Hernandez couldn't get away from the discussion whether he be in Europe or the Americas.
Recently, I stood idly by while a reporter asked him whether he preferred Juventus or Fiorentina. True to his nature, he swerved away from the question and gave the standard “I'm focused on my team” spiel, while my mind wandered and thought that perhaps the best answer would have been “I prefer Manchester United.” Oh well.
Ideally, Hernandez's gifts should be appreciated for what they are. Great mobility, excellent reading of defenses and sometimes otherworldly placement of shots with non-conventional body parts. He is not, however, a supremely skilled player who will make highlight reels based on dummies, long and winding runs past hapless defenders or Ibrahimovic-like bicycle kicks.
No, there will be more than a couple of times where Hernandez fails, and does so miserably. It's part of the job. He won't always score, and thus his effect on games will seem like a non-existent one. And while the world marvels at Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, we need to remember that it wasn't really that long ago when we were holding another Ronaldo up on a pedestal. A Ronaldo whose job it was to be the guy up top, finishing plays whichever way he could.
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