Love it or hate it, a move to Real Madrid is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a player that only comes up for a select few.
Mexican Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has taken it with both hands and followed in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham in making the trip from Manchester United to Los Merengues.
After making a final appearance for Manchester United in Milton Keynes in the 4-0 Capital One Cup loss last week, 26-year-old Hernandez could make his debut for Real Madrid on Sept. 13 in the Bernabeu against Raul Jimenez’s Atletico.
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It isn’t difficult to see the appeal and why European champion Real Madrid became the priority after it seemed Juventus and Valencia were at the front of the line when Hernandez became available.
The elephant in the room and most obvious doubt surrounding the move is playing time.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti plays with only one central striker and Karim Benzema is the regular. Ronaldo and even Gareth Bale can play in the center forward position, too.
The simple answer is that there is no guarantee of starts, although it isn’t inconceivable that Hernandez could dislodge the France international. That will be his initial goal.
And although Chicharito may not have enjoyed his finest past year, it is worth remembering that at his best and in a team that plays to his strength, his striking ratio is first class. He’s also played a Champions League final and has a wealth of experience already in the bank.
Real Madrid’s rapid, counterattacking style should offer Hernandez the room to operate in the poacher role that made him such a hit in Manchester when he made the jump from Chivas after the 2010 World Cup.
The risk from Hernandez’s point of view is that if he doesn’t get that playing time, it will affect his confidence and his role for the Mexico national team, which has plummeted from being one of the first names on the team sheet to a substitute role in the last 12 months.
But Real Madrid will balance the league, cup, Champions League and the Club World Cup this season. The club will play plenty of matches and Hernandez is definitely better off there than at Manchester United. At Old Trafford, Hernandez was fourth choice for a team that isn’t in Europe and is already out of one of the domestic cup competitions.
More than anything though, the move reaffirms that Hernandez continues to be the most important player in Mexican soccer at present and, in time, will go down as one of the most successful. There is arguably nowhere better to continue that legacy than at Real Madrid.
The potential rewards are obviously huge and when Real Madrid came calling, Hernandez was right to roll the dice and gamble.