Mexican goal-scoring star Chicharito signs with LA Galaxy
By GREG BEACHAM
LOS ANGELES (AP) The biggest star in Mexican soccer is coming to the LA Galaxy.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez announced his move to the five-time MLS champions on Tuesday, bringing the veteran striker back to North America after a lengthy career in Europe.
Hernandez will participate in his first training session Thursday. His new team is already thrilled about the boost he will provide to a team in transition after the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
"We needed in that position one player like him with a lot of energy," Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. "He can help us to be better. He's got a lot of experience. He has spent the last 11 years in Europe playing in big teams. ... The expectations we have for this year are growing. When you have a player like him, you start to dream about something big that could happen in the year."
Hernandez is a designated player for the Galaxy and the effective replacement for Ibrahimovic, who signed with AC Milan this winter after two outstanding seasons stateside. Chicharito will also be a compelling - albeit friendly - rival to fellow Mexican star Carlos Vela, who won the MLS MVP award last season during a record-setting performance for Los Angeles FC, the Galaxy's upstart crosstown foes.
The 31-year-old Hernandez is the top goal-scorer in the history of the Mexican national team, which has a fervent following among Los Angeles' expansive Latino population. His arrival in Major League Soccer also is another boon for the league in its attempts to compete with Liga MX, Mexico's top professional division and the most-watched pro soccer league in the U.S.
Galaxy general manager Dennis Te Kloese has a long-standing personal relationship with Chicharito from his tenure as the director of national teams for the Mexican Football Federation, but he said the move was strictly a soccer decision.
"He has achieved a lot," Te Kloese said. "He has won championships, and he's a world-recognized player. If you want to play offensive football, he is a dangerous guy. I think it helps that I know him personally, and that he's a hard worker. ... For us to have somebody as eager as he is to come here, and for us to be as eager from him to come over, I think it's the right moment and the right time."
Hernandez had been with Sevilla since last September, appearing in only nine matches while struggling to get consistent playing time during the Spanish club's strong start to the season. He moved to Sevilla after two seasons with West Ham in the Premiership, where his playing time also declined in his second year.
Hernandez also has played for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen since leaving Chivas in his native Guadalajara in 2010. He scored 59 goals in four seasons for Manchester United, and he added nine goals during one season on loan with Real in 2014-15.
But after a strong two-season stint with Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, his production and playing time over the past three seasons in London and Sevilla haven't matched his vaunted reputation.
He will have every opportunity to show off his formidable goal-scoring skill with the Galaxy, who need his talents at the forefront of Barros Schlelotto's attack.
"It's not an easy task for us in MLS to go into Europe at the winter break and get high-profile players," Te Kloese said. "Normally the answer is, `Wait until the summer (when) we finish our season.' In Sevilla's case, we need to be very appreciative."
The Galaxy have lost their top two goal-scorers from last season, with Ibrahimovic returning to Europe and Uriel Antuna moving to Chivas. Romain Alessandrini also confirmed his departure from the Galaxy in an Instagram post on Monday, ending an impressive three-year stint in Los Angeles for the oft-injured French playmaker.
Nobody else left on the Galaxy's roster from last season scored more than four goals, although Argentine forward Cristian Pavon showed immense promise in 13 games as a midseason acquisition from Boca Juniors.
Hernandez's move to the Galaxy will lead to a reunion with midfielder Jonathan Dos Santos, his friend and teammate with the Mexican national team. While the Galaxy lost Ibrahimovic and Alessandrini, they fleshed out their roster with the additions of MLS veterans Aleksandar Katai and Sacha Kljestan.
The Galaxy returned to the MLS playoffs in 2019, showing promise and improvement in Barros Schelotto's first season after an embarrassing two-year postseason absence for the league's most decorated club. They lost to LAFC in the Western Conference semifinals in the latest chapter in the clubs' burgeoning rivalry.
Hernandez has scored a record 52 goals in 109 appearances for El Tri while appearing in the last three World Cups. He was named the CONCACAF Men's Player of the Year in 2015.
Hernandez's nickname means "little pea." He is named in honor of his father, Javier "Chicharo" Hernandez, who had an 18-year pro career in Mexico.
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Updated January 21, 2020