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‘Tata’ Martino speaks truth regarding ‘Chicharito’

The NT head coach explained his reasoning behind not including the striker in his call-ups list.

United States Men’s National Team v Mexico: Friendly Match Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

It’s long been known that Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández has been on a physical and playing level decline over the past years. After five years years of intermittent success at Manchester United, topped off by an average 2014 World Cup, the Mexican striker was finally sold to German club Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2015. And despite tallying 39 goals in 76 matches (averaging just over 1 goal per 2 matches) over the span of two years, the Germans decided to part ways with the striker just halfway through his contract.

‘Chicharito’ was then sold to West Ham United, with whom he also spent two years, except for playing in 13 less matches and scoring less than half of his total in the previous two years (17 goals). As he began his third consecutive year with the English side, he was sold to Spanish club Sevilla in the summer of 2019 after having already played two matches for West Ham to start the season. His decline continued with Sevilla, not even completing the season, and after just 3 goals scored in 15 matches, Hernández was transferred to MLS club LA Galaxy in January 2020, where he has currently scored just twice in 12 matches.

The decline has been more than apparent in recent years for ‘Chicharito’, and the Mexican NT head coach, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, didn’t hold back his words when questioned regarding the striker’s absence in the past few NT friendlies. He had this to say: “No one plays because they’re the NT all-time leading scorer. That doesn’t sustain you, or not for very long at least, but that won’t last forever. If it did, we’d still be calling up Hugo Sánchez.”

And he’s right; anyone expecting to be deserving of a NT call-up just because they’re all-time leading scorer in a football zone where you face subpar National Teams regularly in your World Cup qualifiers and continental cups doesn’t really prove anything. Despite 52 goals garnered in his NT career thus far, ‘Chicharito’ never proved he could be effective in tight, difficult situations, and simply lacks the overall talent to be a consistent striker. Not to mention, considering all the current talent in NT offense, there really is no room for a ‘Chicharito’-type player, who has no skill or ability with the ball, doesn’t pass effectively, can’t create space for himself, and who depends solely on others crossing the ball in toward him. You need a lot more than that to be NT-worthy nowadays.

Hernández was never able to establish himself as a top-quality scorer. Sure, he scored some nice goals along the way and proved he could move without the ball (he is one of the best ever at doing that, I have to give him that one). However, he never truly fulfilled any of his coach’s expectations. And when it mattered most and spaces were reduced on the pitch, that’s when he proved most ineffective. Looking back at WC matches, he was never the go-to striker or player who could take control of a match, as opposed to players like Carlos Vela, Raúl Jiménez, and our last true leader, Oribe Peralta, despite never playing in Europe. Martino uttered a reality that should’ve been applied long ago, and the truth is, Mexico will be better up front because of it. Even the 2018 WC turned out to be a hangover effect from Hernández’s previous success, as he had nothing going even back then. Now 32 years of age and a rapidly fading mobility on the pitch, ‘Chicharito’ should’ve already played his final game with the Mexican NT.