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Chicharito shows European ambitions with Sevilla move, frustrating MLS, Liga MX teams once again

5:56 PM GMT 02/09/2019
Chicharito Sevilla
Long the apple of North American clubs' eye, the Mexico national team star is pressing on in Europe rather than coming home

Chicharito flashed the lopsided, toothy grin known to millions and held up the shirt. As he smiled, dozens of executives across North America must have sighed.

Javier Hernandez is right where he wants to be, and that is with Sevilla. Not in MLS. Not in Mexico. In Spain.

Mexico's all-time leading scorer moved to the Liga club from West Ham in a move announced on Monday, giving Julen Lopetegui's team an attacking option it sorely lacked and getting the striker out of a West Ham system that never seemed to suit his skills.

"I have no doubts, only positive thoughts," he said at an introductory news conference. "I was speaking about it with my agent, about how it is a great opportunity. I know the responsibility that is required and I am excited."

"I am here to work hard and show the best version of myself on both a professional and personal level. I expect nothing less of myself, and neither do they," he added later.

As his friends and El Tri teammates move back to Liga MX (Miguel Layun), the Middle East (Hector Moreno) or MLS (Carlos Vela), Chicharito's desire to press on in Europe's top leagues is rare and remarkable.

It is even more remarkable when considering the fact that not only has he taken a pay cut from his Premier League wages, according to Sevilla sporting director Monchi, but also has turned down the potential riches he could make were he to join a team in Major League Soccer or return to his native country and play in Liga MX.

"I’ve never seen a player cut his wages the way he has done in order to come here. That’s a sign," Monchi said at Monday's news conference. "He has made an important financial sacrifice to come here, and when I think about that I realize it can only be down to his true desire to play for Sevilla. I think he is among the best strikers in the world. Javier has goals, has quality, he’s fast and he’s a good finisher."

He's also one of the most marketable players in the Americas. Bayer Leverkusen saw the bump when the 31-year-old spent two seasons there, becoming one of the most popular Bundesliga clubs in Mexico and the United States and gaining thousands of new followers across various social media accounts thanks to the popularity of the "Little Pea."

The combination of skill and selling-power has made Chicharito the dream of many an MLS front office executive.

Like a Raul Ruidiaz in Seattle, a Brian Fernandez in Portland or a Josef Martinez in Atlanta, he is a player who could plug right into an attack and make it better. Unlike those players, he's a name the casual fan - and even the casual non-fan - knows and would likely consider buying a ticket or copping a shirt.

He's been linked with Orlando City and the Chicago Fire, but few MLS owners wouldn't splash the cash if Chicharito were on offer.

"I saw something on social media saying that Chicharito would cost $3 million a year. Guess what. If Chicharito was $3 million a year, FC Dallas is ready and prepared. I can just tell you that," FC Dallas president and owner Dan Hunt told Goal in August. "The reality is, when I broke it out for somebody, it was - with the transfer (fee) - about a $60 million deal. You’ve got to think about that from a business standpoint."

Hunt is hardly the only MLS owner doing back-of-the-envelope calculations about how much it would've cost to bring in the forward. He's not even the only MLS owner in his own state who would love to splash cash on a move.

“Chicharito would be pretty special," Austin FC owner Anthony Precourt told the Austin Soccer Podcast when asked about getting a big star for the 2021 MLS expansion team. “We’ll certainly be active in trying to recruit him for many years to come.” 

But with this move to Sevilla, you have to wonder if Chicharito ever plans to join MLS. If he plays out his three-year deal with Sevilla, that would take him through the 2021-22 season. While the awkward timing of the Qatar tournament may come into play, it's possible Chicharito sees it as his final bow.

Or maybe he's trying to set up a final six months with Chivas. Like MLS teams, the Guadalajara side also has been mentioned often as a potential landing spot for Chicharito's long-awaited North American return. Perhaps Chicharito has set it up so he'll play one last short tournament before going out a Guadalajara hero, joining El Tri for the World Cup and then hanging up the boots for good.

Then again, Chicharito is hardly a player or a human who has it all that calculated. In his vlogs and social media posts, he has cast himself as a thoughtful but impulsive person who is far more concerned about loving life than scoring goals.

Yet, it's clear there's still the same drive that took him to Manchester United in the first place and that has seen him bounce back from a handful of dips during his European career. Even in what may have been the low point, a tumultuous stint with Real Madrid, he scored important goals on the grandest of stages. The ambition to do so again is still there, which has to thrill not only Mexico fans but also Mexico manager Tata Martino.

With this transfer, Chicharito has showed once again that his family and his own personal happiness mean more to him than fortune or fame. It's a laudable decision, though one sure to diminish the personal happiness of the dozens of executives in North America who were hoping to see his smile as he held up their team's jersey on deadline day.