Leverkusen vs Tottenham: Javier Hernandez finally at home in a side built around his talents

Hernandez scored 26 goals in his first season at the BayArena and has seven so far this term

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Any club would be a step down after Manchester United and Real Madrid, but at Bayer Leverkusen Javier Hernandez has found a true home.

It might feel like he has slipped away from the fame he enjoyed in his brilliant first few seasons at Old Trafford, when he scored the goals that helped United to their 2011 and 2013 Premier League titles. He will always be a celebrity of the global game, due to his status in Mexico, one of the world’s largest and most passionate football countries. But what he has at the BayArena is something he has not enjoyed for some time: a team perfectly set up for his skills, and which counts on him as one of the most important players.

Hernandez arrived at Leverkusen in 2015, after a loan spell at Real Madrid in which he did not make as much of an impact as hoped. But in Leverkusen manager Roger Schmidt he found a man who wanted him, who thought that his pace and intelligence would make him the perfect spearhead for his counter-pressing team. Hernandez scored a brilliant 26 goals last year, and has seven this year already. He will certainly be Leverkusen’s main threat to Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.

It is clear what he can deliver,” Schmidt said at his press conference on Monday afternoon. “He had a fantastic first season in terms of goals but also integrating into how we play. This year he has had a problem with a broken hand but also a good return.”

If Hernandez’s record suggests that he is a player who is good for good teams but not cut out for the very top, Schmidt pointed to the goals he still managed to score at United, despite not always being first choice. “In England it is difficult to say,” he said. “The stats show that when he’s had a chance to play, he scores goals. Also consider that he has played for Manchester United and Real Madrid, two of the top teams in Europe, where there is stiff competition. Even then he’s shown, often coming on as sub, he has done well. Now that he has chance to play more 90 minutes, and you can see he has more enjoyment in his game, now that he has more time on the pitch.”

This means that Hernandez is especially dangerous right now, and Pochettino is well aware of the threat that the little Mexican will pose tonight. “Obviously he is a great player, I’ve known about him for a long time,” Pochettino said. “In all the clubs where he has played he has scored goals. It’s clear that he is of vital importance to Leverkusen.”

“Tomorrow we will have to be especially vigilant of him, because he’s a dominant player in the box, that can harm us and create situations when we least expect it. We have to face a world class player, un top, un goleador.”