OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 26: Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez of Mexico waves to the crowd after he scored his second goal during their international friendly match against Paraguay at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on March 26, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Forget about Messi, Xavi, Rooney and Giggs.
Whatever happens Saturday afternoon at Wembley between Manchester United and Barcelona, as far as Mexicans are concerned, this is Chicharito's final.
"This lad has Mexico head over heels..." reads the front page headline on a local sports daily three days before the final. The accompanying photo is an upside down photo of the Manchester United star designed to hammer home the point.
Plans are already well underway as to where people are watching the final. Bars and restaurants are expecting bumper crowds. Three separate television channels are showing the game live. The Mexico friendly against Ecuador that kicks off at 3.15 p.m. will be shown on delay. (The Champions League final will finish at around 3:45 p.m. local time)
"When the celebrations have finished, the Mexico-Ecuador game will be shown on Channel 2 with a delay," Javier Alarcon, sports chief at Televisa told the press.
Alcaron added that Televisa had warned Mexican Football Federation executives weeks ago that they would prioritize the Champions League and that the time of the Mexico game should be moved.
Over on Fox Sports, Fausto Ceballos, Vice-President of Programming, is expecting records to be shattered.
Said Ceballos: "I believe that this game [United v Barca] will break viewing figure records for the channel due to the coverage and interest that it is generating."
Outside the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, around 2,500 people are expected to gather to watch the game on big screens Nike are providing.
The debate at taco stands and coffee shops in Chicharito's home town of Guadalajara has recently turned to whether their most famous son will start, and Manchester United's chances against a formidable Barcelona side. The former Chivas player who is the third generation of his family to play for the Mexican national team is already a firm local idol. Sports newspapers regularly carry his photo on the front page. The reason isn't hard to fathom: his popularity boosts sales.
At a time when a quick Google search for Mexico produces nothing but negative headlines, Chicharito is almost the opposite: a Mexican who lives a clean life, loves his country and, most importantly, is positively successful.
It´s difficult to overemphasize what Chicharito has achieved this year and what it means to Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and Mexican football. There was even a debate on a radio show about whether Chicharito or the Pope had been better for the Catholic Church over the last year! Few predicted he would make such an impact over a year ago when his face was unexpectedly glaring back from all the newspapers after signing for Manchester United.
No Mexican has ever scored in a Champions League Final. Nobody in Mexico wants to add any extra pressure but, with the way Chicharito has smashed through every hurdle put in front of him and risen to every challenge, would you bet against him?
Chicharito: "They educated me well. There isn't a job, money or anything else that would make me feel superior or inferior than anybody else."
Facebook link to Guadalajara viewing event: http://on.fb.me/mzJAfR