Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez ready for stellar season with Bayer Leverkusen
When Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez first joined Bayer Leverkusen last summer, the striker had little time to assimilate to the team or adapt to the German style of play.
Consider this: Just 12 days after signing with his new club, Hernandez made his competitive debut for Leverkusen during Week 4 of the Bundesliga season. Although the Mexican star went on to have a very successful tournament in Germany, Hernandez didn't find momentum through consistent goals and starts until around Week 10.
Now, after having a full month to train with the roster during the summer, Hernandez is set to exceed his achievements and triumphs from his initial season with Leverkusen.
During Sunday's 2-1 German Cup victory over Hauenstein, the Mexican striker was superb. His goal and assist helped avoid an embarrassing early exit in the competition. Hernandez wasted no time in his first match of the new year, and with a talented newcomer like Kevin Volland working alongside him, the "Little Pea" is ready to maintain his status as one of the top strikers in world soccer.
Looking back at the weekend, Hernandez wasn't the only Mexican player to gain some recognition. Let's quickly recap some of the other recent action from the more noteworthy Europeos abroad.
Andres Guardado, MF, PSV Eindhoven
Guardado was vital for PSV during last Saturday's 4-0 win against PEC Zwolle. The midfielder dictated the pace of the game with his passing and provided an assist for the third goal.
Despite rumors of a possible move to Major League Soccer, it's best for the 29-year-old to stay with PSV. Guardado thrives in his role with the club and will once again have an opportunity to stand out during during this year's UEFA Champions League.
Hector Moreno, DF, PSV Eindhoven
Like Guardado, Moreno took part in the full 90 minutes for PSV. Thanks to his clearances and tackles, Zwolle had a difficult time finding the back of the net at home on Saturday.
It wouldn't be surprising if Moreno made a last-second move to Spain or England before the transfer window ends. With his strength, experience and attacking threat off set-pieces, a few bigger clubs might be eyeing the defender as a late roster addition. That said, with the Champions League group stage just around the corner, Moreno might feel comfortable staying with PSV.
Guillermo Ochoa, GK, Granada
Although Ochoa allowed a goal in the 61st minute, the goalkeeper was solid with his saves that helped Granada finish with a 1-1 draw against Villarreal on Saturday.
The former Malaga goalkeeper can rest easy knowing that he has less competition for a starting role at Granada. After being a backup to Malaga's Carlos Kameni, Ochoa now has a golden opportunity with Granada to gain regular minutes. This should in turn lead to a more regular role with El Tri as well.
Hector Herrera, MF, Porto
Herrera was once again the team captain for Porto during Saturday's match against Estoril. With several interceptions and passes, the midfielder put in an above average shift during the narrow 1-0 victory.
Rumors of a possible move to Napoli or Juventus have become more quiet in recent days. Herrera might prove to be too valuable for Porto, and at 26 years of age, he is well aware that he still has time to make a move to another club later on in his career.
Miguel Layun, DF, Porto
After riding the bench during the first league game of the season, Layun was given the start over the weekend against Estoril. Thanks to a well-placed cross, the defender provided the assist for the match-winning goal in the the 84th minute.
As strange as it may sound, Porto's assist machine might be on his way out of the team. Layun's first start of the tournament might have never happened if left-back Alex Telles didn't receive a red card last week.
If Layun once again struggles to get time on the field during the next Champions League playoff game this Tuesday, he should push for a move elsewhere.
Jesus Corona, FW, Porto
Following a thrilling season debut, Corona was a catalyst in Porto's attack last Saturday, but was unable to find the back of the net for a second league match in a row.
The 23-year-old winger covered an immense amount of ground against Estoril and at times looked like Porto's best player. As long as he continues to create dangerous runs, and is willing to share possession, there should be no reason why he won't maintain his spot as a starter.
Diego Reyes, DF, Porto
Reyes watched from the bench while the rest of his fellow Mexican teammates fought for Porto's victory. The defender has yet to gain any playing time.
Recognizing his backup role, Reyes must look for alternative clubs before the transfer window closes. A return to Real Sociedad, whether it be on loan or a sale, would be the best bet for the young defender.
If Reyes sticks with Porto and fails to gain minutes, it would hurt his playing time with the national side in the near future.
Carlos Vela, FW, Real Sociedad
Vela played during the last 11 minutes of Real Sociedad's 3-0 home loss to Real Madrid on Sunday. Despite his limited time, the winger nearly made a mark with his passing and high pressure on the visiting team.
It's difficult to predict what lies ahead for Vela. The 27-year-old could find another resurgence in his career in Spain or just as easily make a move to MLS during the next couple of weeks. Be sure to keep an eye on the inconsistent player who is still arguably the most talented Mexican player.
Marco Fabian, MF, Eintracht Frankfurt
Fabian has yet to win over Eintracht Frankfurt manager Niko Kovac. The midfielder was left on the bench while Frankfurt defeated Magdeburg on penalties after a 1-1 draw in extra time.
The former Chivas player appears to have limited options. Barring an unexpected transfer to another European team, the former Chivas player will either need to fight for playing time with the struggling German club or make a trip back to Mexico.
If Fabian isn't able to gain regular minutes by the winter, a move back to the Liga MX would be probable.
Raul Jimenez, FW, Benfica
After being substituted on during the 57th minute of Sunday's match, Jimenez scored the equalizer for Benfica in the 1-1 draw with Vitoria Setubal.
The former America player is the new Mexican "super-sub." Following some late game-winners from last season, the striker is once again proving to be an invaluable asset to the Portuguese giants.
With plenty of opportunities to gain minutes in the Champions League and domestic tournaments, Jimenez will have a good chance this year to become one of the top Mexican goalscorers in Europe.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.