Javier Hernandez's Real Madrid dream has only just begun
Now that his medical is complete and Mexico's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez has officially joined Real Madrid on loan from Manchester United, it's time to analyze the move.
For United, the loss of Hernandez is negligible. In 24 league games this past season, he tallied only four times. The club has other strikers who are more effective, namely Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Falcao. Hernandez was surplus to the requirements of new coach Louis van Gaal.
Although the good-hearted young striker was known for his work ethic and a few timely goals, he wasn't used often. When Hernandez did play, his rusty form in front of goal hindered his effectiveness. It almost seemed as if the harder he tried, the more he tightened up and limited his natural poaching talent.
Not surprisingly, the lack of form carried over to his national team play. After a long scoring drought during the final qualifying games before Brazil, Hernandez did not start games for El Tri in the 2014 World Cup and contributed only one goal. This was clearly a regression from the 2010 tournament, in which he started one game and scored two goals throughout Mexico's run.
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It was thus vital for the career of Chicharito to get back on track with more playing time, but many clubs were apparently loath to buy his lucrative contract. Real Madrid have the money to pay, but a loan move with an option to buy protects them in case the forward struggles to adjust to the style of play in Spain or just plain doesn't produce.
It couldn't have hurt that Madrid have had great success with a striker from Mexico before. Hugo Sanchez was brilliant for the club, scoring more than 250 goals. However, that was in a previous century, and Hernandez will have to find his own way to make an impact with the storied club.
A more recent precedent might be the success that Carlos Vela has had in his move from Arsenal to Real Sociedad. Yet the pressure at Madrid to perform well immediately is orders of magnitude larger than it is at the Basque club.
Los Blancos' goal every season is to win La Liga and, ideally, the Champions League as well. Last season was considered by some supporters a bit of a failure, even with a Champions League trophy, because rivals Atletico Madrid claimed the league title.
As some have speculated, Chicharito may have lost his scoring touch, but at 26, he is still young enough to reclaim it when given the chance. His passing may be the most improved aspect of his game, however, and that could benefit a strike partner like Karim Benzema. The instinct for movement off the ball and good positioning around the goal is still evident in Hernandez.
Most of all, what hasn't faltered is his work ethic. Hernandez has never wavered in his dogged determination to contribute. Unlike natural talents who are difficult to work with or some who take a while to develop the discipline to match their talent, Hernandez has been unfailingly cooperative with coaches, teammates and trainers. In a team replete with superstars and large egos, someone with an ability for getting along with others well is an underrated asset.
And getting along should be fairly easy for Chicharito. Fluent in both English and Spanish, the Mexican shouldn't have any trouble communicating with the likes of Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale.
With a one-year loan, Madrid's risk is minimal. Even for Hernandez, if the Spanish capital proves to be too ambitious for his abilities, there will still be time in his career trajectory to regroup and find another club that would be a better fit.
The reward for all parties involved if Hernandez is a success is evident. For the striker, for Mexico and for Real Madrid, to have Chicharito scoring goals at a tremendous rate would be the stuff dreams are made of. Perhaps that's why he chose similar words when first taking the field in his new uniform for pictures.
"It's a dream come true," he stated, smiling. The dream has only begun for Hernandez at Real Madrid. How it ends has yet to be seen.
Andrea Canales covers both Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter @soccercanales.