New LA Galaxy striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández is adjusting well in Southern California after arriving from Spain in January. The Mexican international is already fitting in like a local and is getting to know the town in less than two months.
Chicharito left Sevilla and joined the MLS club for a fee of around £7m after agreeing to a three-year deal worth £103,000 a week. The Mexican had initially left West Ham for Sevilla last summer but fell down the pecking down at Seville. Chicharito struggled for regular playing time under Julen Lopetegui, making only nine La Liga appearances and scoring one goal.
Hernandez will help fill the void up front for LA Galaxy left by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who left the club for AC Milan following the expiration of his contract in December.
The 31-year old sat courtside for the Lakers vs 76ers game March 3 at Staples Center, where he met with Lakers superstar LeBron James. Hernandez, who is arguably the most popular Mexican player of his generation, made the rounds of the talk shows and had a mural of himself painted on a wall between a Peruvian restaurant and a pizza place along the boardwalk in Venice Beach.
The striker will on Saturday night play a competitive MLS game for the Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park. He will be hoping to open his campaign in MLS with a goal in the team’s home opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps. LA Galaxy will hope to expect the largest for a soccer game at the stadium since 2016, which was a sellout crowd of nearly 27,000.
“It’s more motivation than pressure,” Hernández, speaking in Spanish, said of the crowd, which will include his parents. “It’s also part of the show. I started playing because I love it.”
“I’m ready,” he continued. “I’m really happy for this opportunity.”
LA Galaxy plays in the world’s second-largest Mexican market and has never had a major Mexican box-office star. Chicharito is the first Mexican to play for the club despite signing superstars over the years such as David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard and recently Ibrahimovic.
Hernandez is Mexico’s all-time leading scorer with 52 goals and has become the highest-paid player in MLS. Due to his country’s closeness to America, Hernandez, who, has not hidden his love for the American League and expressed his desire to join the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos in America.
In the lead-up to the home opener, Hernández shot a skit for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” … followed Usher and actress Alison Pill to the couch on “The Late, Late Show with James Corden” … appeared on “SportsCenter” in English, and then was interviewed by legendary journalist Jorge Ramos in Spanish on Univision.
“It’s Chicharito. Everyone wants him on their TV shows,” Jonathan dos Santos, Hernández’s teammate with both the Galaxy and Mexican national team, said in Spanish. “This is Hollywood. The marketing in the United States, in soccer, is what sells. He does it well.”
Hernández is well aware that, as the team’s captain and striker, he’s replacing Ibrahimovic, who repeatedly criticized the league and many teammates during a two-season MLS visit in which he set scoring records but didn’t win a trophy.
Without mentioning Ibrahimovic, now with AC Milan, Hernández made it clear he has a different agenda.
“Let’s put aside the comparisons,” he said. “We need to be very respectful to value this league, value this tournament, value this country.
“Win the league, that’s what on my mind. If I score only one goal but the team wins, we are all going to win. And if I score, I don’t know, 50 goals and we don’t qualify for playoffs, it won’t do any good.”