Manero

Chicharito, Back with a Vengeance

By: Alfonso Duro

When Javier Hernández’s adventure at Real Madrid seemed to be coming to an agonizing end, the Mexican revived. He’s now showing the world he’s probably not said his last word for the season.

Given the unusually high number of injuries Ancelotti’s squad has suffered, Chicharito was able to claim a spot in the starting lineup. And contrary to what he had done in the first third of the season (when his appearances left a lot to be desired), Chicharito has taken the pitch by storm. His impact has been so large, the club is now considering signing him on a full transfer come next June.

A PLAY OF FAITH. Chicharito had already been criticized for his praying ritual before each game in Manchester, but this did not deter him once he arrived in Madrid. But people are not complaining so much after the last few weeks, in which his prayers have been answered. It all started with a surprise start against Eibar, in order to give Benzema a break before the Champions League quarterfinal. Chicharito scored a goal, but he still seemed a bit off in terms of his connection with the rest of the squad.

Then, at Bernabéu against Málaga, he finished off the game with a wonderful pass to Cristiano Ronaldo, to seal off a 3-1 victory. Benzema’s knee injury left the door right open for Chicharito in the return leg of the Champions League against Atlético Madrid in a game in which he was unanimously chosen as the best player on the pitch after scoring the game-winning goal in the 87th minute.

Many reminisced of other one-hit wonders who had managed similar feats with Real Madrid throughout history, but Chicharito was out to prove his role could be much more sustainable with the Merengues.

In Balaídos, against Celta de Vigo, Real Madrid faced one of the toughest games in La Liga’s final month. At the 12th minute, the Whites were down 1-0. But Chicharito took the reins of the team again and scored a wonderful brace to lead them to a 2-4 victory. It seemed like the Mexican’s faith was much stronger than all the bad-mouthing he had to endure.

JUMPING ON THE BANDWAGON. In just four weeks, many of the harshest critics of the Mexican striker have seen the light and, without a doubt, jumped on the bandwagon that his goal-scoring streak has brought forth.

There’s not a single outlet in Spain that is not currently enamored by Chicharito’s antics at this point. The same experts who used to make fun of his alleged lack of skills and claimed that he didn’t have the character to be on Real Madrid’s first team, are now running out of adjectives to describe his brilliance, heroic attitude, fighting spirit and humility that allowed him to shine in a locker room full of bigger stars.

TO STAY OR TO GO? THAT IS THE QUESTION. The question remains in Chicharito’s mind as his season-long loan comes to an end in June. It’s pretty clear that in spite of owning his pass until 2017, Manchester United doesn’t want him back in Old Trafford. And while they agreed with Real Madrid on a 20 million buyout clause effective in June, they may be open to accepting an even lower bid from the Merengues.

If that were the case—and given his latest performances—Ancelotti and the board may not think it a bad idea to buy his pass, and then decide during the summer whether to sell him for a profit (surely, once he signs a longer-term contract, his market price will return to the 20 million mark), or keep him to play the same role he’s had this season.

In the personal realm, Chicharito is now in a committed relationship with Lucia Villalón, a Spanish Formula One TV reporter, who was previously linked to having being the culprit of Ronaldo and Irina Shayk’s breakup. The couple seems to be very happy together, and so staying in Madrid—and possibly getting more playing time next year—should be appealing to the Mexican striker.

Only time will tell what will come of the Real Madrid/Hernández saga, but in the meantime, the Mexican should be proud to reap the fruits of all his hard work this season with the Merengues.

Alfonso Duro is a Spanish freelance writer. When he's not managing Google's agency in the United Arab Emirates (his current job), chances are he's watching and writing about soccer.