Beyond the unfortunate result, Wednesday night at El Azteca was a celebration of triumph and promise for Mexican soccer.
The one man who didn’t fit into that grand scheme of things was Javier Hernandez. Casting a forlorn figure for much of the evening - and even whistled by the crowd near the final whistle - the man who for years now has been a Mexican icon could only shrug his shoulders and jog off the field in defeat after a mediocre 90 minutes.
But the story of Chicharito’s current state of form and animation isn’t all about these 90 minutes. This dip in play and energy level has been in the making for some time.
The timing of this trip couldn’t have been worse for the green-eyed wonder. A whirlwind tour took him away from Manchester United’s preseason for nearly a week, just as the season is set to kick off.
Things only got worse on Wednesday, with the news that the Robin van Persie to Manchester United deal was done. That will have had obvious effects on the Wednesday night morale of a player who, half a world away, was seeing his Red Devil dreams going up in smoke by the minute.
But that’s not the half of it, it turns out. According to Mexican national team insiders, Chicharito showed up in Mexico City a bit down already, even before the RvP news hit the wires. While he considered the Mexican Olympic team’s triumph a victory for the country, the story goes, he was deeply affected by not having been allowed to take part in what would have been a career highlight gold medal run.
Instead, Chicharito stayed loyal to Man U, and played out the full preseason with the club. Unfortunately, by going out and getting Van Persie, they’ve failed to repay that loyalty, and hinted that Chicharito’s future in red is probably limited at best.
It’s a drastic turn of events for a player who, just a year ago, looked to have a long term future with the Red Devils. But the reality is that at the top levels of soccer, these things happen. The top teams in the world, even when pleased with what they’ve got, will seldom pass up a chance to improve anywhere on the field.
That’s just what Man U did, and Chicharito’s not the only one affected. Danny Welbeck looked to have taken Hernandez’s spot late last year, and would have proved staunch competition for playing time for the Mexican again this season. Now both are instantly a rung further down the depth chart.
What’s left is for Chicharito to take stock of his options. Giving up on the Red Devils isn’t the dream outcome of course, but the writing seems to be on the wall.
There are plenty of cases of players whose time has dead-ended in Manchester, who have then gone on to have stellar careers elsewhere in the Premiership. The very man who denied Hernandez what would have been a morale boosting goal Wednesday, Tim Howard, provides an example. There are many others.
So even if Hernandez could stay behind and play a limited role in Manchester, buried on the depth chart, he’s probably better off moving on sooner rather than later.
The rumors making the rounds Wednesday were that Arsenal was interested in the Mexican to replace their departing captain. That could make a lot of sense. As we all know, Chicharito’s forte is getting free in the box and finishing chances. A team like Arsenal, stocked with creators, would be an ideal home for that sort of player.
A double digit goal season at the Emirates would quickly erase even the most bitter disappointment from the last year, but Arsenal isn’t the only team where Javier Hernandez’s talents would be welcome.
He’s a natural fit at any top to mid-level Premier League team. He could thrive in a place like Newcastle or Everton where he would not only get constant paying time, but might also broaden his game on a team for which he would always be the star.
Despite the gloom and disappointment of all this, it’s far from over for Javier Hernandez. His career may have hit a speed bump, but the best course of action is to move quickly to rectify the situation, before this sad state of affairs sets in more deeply.
For his own good and that of El Tri, it’s clear Javier Hernandez needs a new situation. The Chicharito on the field Wednesday night at El Azteca is not the one El Tri fans want to see.
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