Javier Hernandez to Real Madrid: Manchester United striker is a good fit and will be liked by the Bernabeu crowd
The Mexico international has moved on a season-long loan deal
Tuesday 02 September 2014
Signing for Real Madrid is often seen as the pinnacle of a player’s footballing career but those heights are more often than not tinged with a weight of expectation that can hold down even the greatest players in the world.
The need, not the desire, to win at all costs, the hard-to-please Bernabeu crowd, the world watching your every move. Real Madrid may be arguably the greatest club on the planet but it is also an institution that can chew talent up and spit it right back out. Although the glitz and glamour of pulling on the famous white shirt may blind everything else when putting pen to paper on contract at the Santiago Bernabeu, there is a big risk that dream may soon become nightmare.
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez aired all the usual comments on his unveiling at the Bernabeu on Monday afternoon after completing a season-long loan move from Manchester United. A dream come true? Tick.
He supported Real Madrid as a child? “Obviously”, he said. Obviously.
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The Mexican struggled for regular starts at Old Trafford and with Falcao completing his move to United yesterday those chances were set to become fewer and further between.
It was therefore expected that the 26-year-old resembled someone who had just won the lottery on his Madrid unveiling. With Karim Benzema leading the line for Carlo Ancelotti Hernandez’s time on the pitch isn’t expected to get much greater but that didn’t matter for a man who scored 59 goals in only 85 starts in Manchester. Another 69 appearances came from the United bench, making him the Red Devils’ ‘super sub’, a term that will probably be used frequently by the Spanish press too.
While ‘super sub’ status is a term most strikers want to rid themselves of, it is a term that Chicharito seems happy to adopt during his year in the Spanish capital, a year that could be extended into a permanent move come the end of the campaign if agreed by all parties. The Mexico international, who has an impressive return of more than a goal in every other game for his country, was like a kid at Christmas as he faced the press for the first time in the Bernabeu press room. This wasn’t just the kind of delight of joining Real Madrid, it was the kind of delight that should see him play without the usual weight of expectation on his shoulders. He’s at the Bernabeu to win things but he’s at the Bernabeu to enjoy himself.
“I’m delighted and completely grateful to the whole institution of Real Madrid for having made the effort [to sign me] and I’ll give it my all,” he said. “There is no player in the world who can say they wouldn’t like to wear this shirt or be at this club. It would be a big lie. For me it is a dream come true. I’m really happy to be here and I’m going to try and have fun, to help the team and win titles.”
Javier Hernandez in action for Manchester United during pre-season
His desire to help the team was a recurring theme throughout his introduction. Hernandez, who becomes the fourth Mexican to play for Madrid and follows in the footsteps of club legend Hugo Sanchez, who scored 208 goals in 282 official games for Los Blancos, would not be drawn into talking about whether he would be happy to start the majority of matches on the bench, but his constant reference to being happy to help the team suggests he will be and that is perfect for the European champions.
"I’ve come here to belong to Real Madrid and I’m delighted to be at this club,” he confirmed. “I always try to lead my life with a lot of objectives and goals and I’m here to give everything, both on and off the pitch, and to help this team to be as or more successful than it is. None of the big teams, and this is the biggest, can win with just one player, they need everyone to achieve as a group”.
Eyebrows were raised when Madrid ended the transfer window by signing the Manchester United man and not Colombian star Falcao, who had been linked with a move back to the Spanish capital all summer. Reports suggest the former Atletico Madrid man would have still been a Madrid player had the club wanted him, but instead president Florentino Perez resisted another ‘Galactico’ this summer and instead went for the option best suited to Ancelotti’s plans.
While a natural goalscorer such as Falcao would have been hard to turn down, the Italian has been looking for a striker more in the mould of Alvaro Morata, who left the club for Juventus this summer. A player who will not take the limelight away from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale and a player who is happy to play second fiddle to Benzema.
Morata’s patience eventually ran out but Chicharito offers the perfect replacement.
He arrives at the Bernabeu knowing that he is there not only to add goals and provide competition for Benzema in the No.9 role, but to help the lethal twosome of Bale and Ronaldo. Ancelotti commented in the close season that he did not necessarily need another striker and that the No.9 role was to help his attacking talismen in their quest for goals. Benzema is not one of the best natural finishers in the world but his link-up play in a front three is what makes Ancelotti stick with the former Lyon man. A striker is there to score goals but a lot of the work Benzema does for the team goes unnoticed.
Falcao would not have provided the same qualities. While on paper Madrid may have preferred the Monaco forward, ‘El Tigre’ would not have shared the same selflessness in his play. The danger was that he would overshadow Ronaldo and the current Ballon d’Or and UEFA Best Player in Europe would not have been happy with that. Madrid did not want those problems and Chicharito does not bring them. Falcao may well have done.
The Mexican is also a player who should gain the support of the traditionally tough Madrid supporters. While moans and groans have greeted Benzema on more than one occasion for his somewhat lax approach to matches, Chicharito will provide the opposite with his energy, pace, and never-say-die approach that makes him a likeable character for the teams he plays for. Madrid like a tried and Hernandez is a trier.
“You're going to see a decisive, determined Javier, a professional on and off the field, and I'll try to repay the trust placed in me,” he said. “What we want is to win titles and we'll work hard for it. I'll give a hundred percent to contribute and help the titles come. I’m always grateful to the people who support me and follow me. You are going to see a Chicharito who’ll give everything on the field. It's a team game and the most important thing is for the club to keep winning titles”.
The arrival of Hernandez will give Madrid a welcome boost after throwing away a 2-0 lead at Real Sociedad on Sunday to lose 4-2. His signing will not fix the problems Ancelotti endured in San Sebastian but it will offer a welcome boost ahead of Madrid’s next match, a crucial derby clash against La Liga champions Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday, September 13. Chicharito has scored on his debuts for both United and C.D. Guadalajara and he will look to make it a hat-trick of debut goals against Atleti.
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