It’s late August. Manchester United face Club Brugge in a night time Champions League qualifier. United earn a penalty, already well ahead, as captain Wayne Rooney hands the penalty to an out of form Javier Hernandez. In his head, Hernandez is likely aware of the intricate implications of what, from the outside, seemed like a simple penalty kick. Score and the Mexican would have an opportunity to kick on and challenge for a first team spot. Miss and Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal would lose the little faith he had placed in the Little Pea.
Unfortunately for Hernandez, he went on to do the latter, slipping as the ball struck off his standing leg and landed well wide of the goal. The expressions on Van Gaal and Ryan Giggs’ faces said it all. Javier Hernandez days were well and truly numbered at Old Trafford. Rumours surfaced over Chicharito’s eventual exit as an MLS club were ready to splash the cash on him. Resisting a massive paycheck, Hernandez opted to continue at the highest level, this time with top Bundesliga side, Bayer Leverkusen.
A few months later, and Javier Hernandez is the first name on Bayer’s team sheet. Not only is he their top goalscorer, but he is the German team’s talisman as well. For club and country, Hernandez has already notched 15 goals this season. He’s even set records for Mexican players in Germany’s top flight.
Perhaps one of the main influences over the goal poacher’s fine form is the creativity in behind him. Hernandez is playing a role where he is the primary goalscorer while players in behind him strive to create chances for him. Creativity from the likes of Kampl, Bellarabi, and Mehmedi has allowed both Hernandez and Leverkusen to score goals.
What’s the most encouraging for Javier Hernandez fans is how the striker has become a leader. At 27 years old, the Mexican international is approaching what is considered the prime of his career. Chicharito is no longer a youngster and, instead, he has embraced a role as a senior leader of his team. The once peripheral figure in England is now very much a central figure to all of Bayer Leverkusen’s plans.
And with a couple more years left in prime condition, who knows what Hernandez and Bayer Leverkusen can accomplish?