If you told West Ham fans last season that they were getting a two-time Premier League winner with Man United, and a FIFA Club World Cup winner with Real Madrid, they’d bite your hand off.
But that’s what they have in Javier Hernández, however, it just isn’t as good as it sounds.
After joining The Hammers in the summer of 2017, it looked as though Slaven Bilić had a real acquisition on his hands. For a fee of £16.2m as well, this also seemed quite a bargain for a player that had been a member of the Bundesliga Team of the Season only one year before.
Last season never seemed to get going for Chicharito (valued at £13.5m on Transfermarkt.co.uk), however. After the Croatian was fired in early November 2017, there were fears that the Mexican would fall out of favour with new manager David Moyes, and so it proved to be. Although Hernandez wasn’t entirely shunned by the new manager, it appeared that he was behind Marko Arnautović in his order of preference.
The 105-cap international still managed eight goals in 16 starts last season, but failed to hit his straps after being blighted by injury and the managerial change at the club.
In fact, last season was a microcosm of most of Hernandez’s career, albeit at different clubs. He has always been slightly injury prone, and has always seemed to be playing second fiddle to someone. He had four successful seasons at Man United between 2010-2014, winning the fans’ player of the year award after his first season, but even then, the most starts he made in the Premier League in any campaign was 18 in 2011/12. The most goals he amassed was 13 in 2010/11.
He always had a competitor, though, whilst at Old Trafford; be it Robin van Persie, Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney or Danny Welbeck, he never looked as though he was going to be starting over 30 games a season.
It was the same case for his season spent at Real Madrid, always behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo or Karim Benzema. It was only when he played in Germany that he became a regular in the Bayer Leverkusen squad.
And so it looks as though he is beginning to play a similar role at West Ham. After four games this season, he has only started one game, against Bournemouth alongside Arnautović. It appears as though the Austrian is new manager Manuel Pellegrini’s definitive first choice this season, with Chicharito left to battle it out with Felipe Anderson to partner him, unless they only play with one striker.
Although Andy Carroll and Lucas Pérez will also be vying to play up front when fit or in form, and even Michail Antonio, Hernandez seems to be above these men in the pecking order. So he may well have a season like many he has had in the past.
The thing is, that suits his character. He is a brilliant impact player. He is a natural poacher that is able to find space in the box when very few could. He can crop up with vital goals when teams need it most. That is why, although his stats are not particularly flattering, he is adored by fans he plays for, and develops a cult following as he has a unique skill set that can be invaluable to a manager.
That is why he looks to be so crucial to The Hammers this season, as the club have found themselves in an awkward position. The team will probably snap out of the slump that they are in, and it is players like Hernandez that can do that. Whether starting, or coming off the bench, the Mexican means that there will be a constant goal threat.
In the unlikely event that West Ham go down at the end of the season, do not expect Hernandez to stay. There will be a lot of teams that will be after his services, as they will know that he offers something different. In his thirties now, it is unlikely that he would head to a team of Man United or Real Madrid’s status, but he is certainly capable of being a key component in clubs amongst Europe’s top leagues.
Relegation or not, whether he would want to move to another Premier League club that would offer him consistent starts is unclear. But this current West Ham team are better than their position on the table suggests. He may want to fight for the respect of Pellegrini, and no one would blame him.
In truth, he may be happy with the role that he has at West Ham; a player that would be lucky to start 20 games a season, but can still provide a lot to any team. What teams will know is that he will give 100% in every game that he plays, and sometimes, that is all fans care about.