April 8, 2010 and Manchester United announced that they had agreed a deal to sign young Mexican striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez for an undisclosed fee believed to be around £6.5 million, subject to a work permit. On July 1 the transfer was made official and the Red Devils unveiled a player who was to undoubtedly become the 2010/11 English Premier League signing of the season.
Hernandez caught the eye of the United faithful after an impressive World Cup campaign for ‘El Tricolor’ the Mexican national team, scoring his first World Cup goal in a 2-0 victory over France and being named by FIFA has the quickest player in World Cup 2010, reaching a top speed of 32.15 km/h. He continued to impress during United’s pre-season campaign, scoring on his Manchester United debut in the MLS All-Stars game and backing the performance up with goals against his old club Chivas and Republic of Ireland XI. His first competitive goal came in United’s 3-1 victory against Chelsea FC in the Community Shield, albeit an unconventional and unorthodox finish. Although even an excellent pre-season could not prepare anyone at Manchester United for the incredible impact Chicharito would have in his first full season in Europe.
I’ve written numerous times about Hernandez this season, but with the season drawing to a close it is fitting to name him as the signing of the season, if not, the best signing the Premier League has seen for some time. After exploding on the scene, the 22 year old has earned the praises of pundits and player alike, Wayne Rooney going as far as stating that the young Mexican striker is the “buy of the century“. While Rooney’s statement may be a slight exaggeration, Hernandez has had an amazing impact at United this season, scoring vital goals and playing a vital role in their title bid which was all but sealed with the 2-1 victory over Chelsea on May 8.
Hernandez is without a doubt a class act, and he has exceeded all expectations in his first season at United, the statistics are there to prove it. His goal against Chelsea took him to 21 goals in all competitions so far this campaign, with 13 of his goals coming in the Barclays Premier League and most of them being crucial goals that have propelled United to the title this season. The most recent example of Hernandez vital contribution that springs to mind is his goal in the 1-0 win over Everton at Old Trafford, Hernandez popping up in the 84th minute to head past Tim Howard and take all three points against determined opposition, ensuring United remained atop the Premier League ladder.
When it came down to deciding who would take the signing of the season, it was hardly a difficult choice. There is always an aura of expectation that weighs on the shoulders of any player that signs for Manchester United, although for any player who makes the move to the Premier League, there is a period of settling in that is generally required. This was not the case with Hernandez, as he seamlessly slotted into the squad at United and made the transition from Mexico to England with ease. All of this and yet he has had to make the adjustments to a new culture, a new way of life and of course, a completely different style of football.
On top of all of this, Hernandez is the type of player that symbolises just what it means to play for Manchester United. He possesses all the qualities required that will make him a fantastic striker for seasons to come. Not only does he show the drive and determination that is engraved in Manchester United’s culture, but he also shows the commitment to improve his game each week. To watch Hernandez weave between defenders, get himself into goal scoring positions and score poachers goals week in week out is a joy to behold. His movement again is something I have written about previously, he is always in the right place at the right time to slot the ball into the back of the net, and this is not just coincidence, it’s his natural goal scoring ability and predatory instinct. It would be easy to put his tap-in’s down to luck, although upon analysing his goals it has to be put down to his appreciation of the space left by opposition defenders, his awareness of his positioning and his intelligence and understanding of football.
In a period that has seen players move between clubs for in excess of £50 million, Hernandez is the perfect example of a scouting network and a club mentality that prides itself on unearthing new talent rather than splashing unnecessary millions on players.
Pele has gone on the record to state that he is in awe of Hernandez’s ability. “There is no doubt that Hernandez is a promising player. He is excellent, I have seen some games of his on television and he is a fantastic footballer,” Pele told a press conference. ”He could be the next Messi because he has great talent; he is a big surprise just as Hugo Sanchez was because he is another that scores a lot of goals”.
While it may be a little early to compare Hernandez to any player, there is no doubting the talent on show and the potential he has to light up the Premier League and send shivers down the spines of opposition defenders for seasons to come.
This is what makes Javier Hernandez undoubtedly the English Premier League’s signing of the season for 2010/11.
By an absolute mile.