Manero

Chicharito’s Misspent Season

By: Alfonso Duro

What started off as a dream quickly became a nightmare; a nightmare Javier “Chicharito” Hernández could have never imagined. He signed with Real Madrid with the full intention of earning a solid spot on the team for next year, after an initial one-year loan period, but his hopes quickly evaporated and it’s gotten to a point where getting five minutes of playing time in a match becomes a reason to celebrate.

Last week, a renowned Spanish reporter who covers Real Madrid on a daily basis, admitted his sources at the club recognize the signing of the Mexican star was a mistake, but what are the real reasons for Chicharito to have gotten so used to being on the bench this season?

THE POLITICAL INTRIGUE. From the get-go, the Mexican striker’s signing was marred by all sorts of rumors about the real reasons behind his arrival to the Spanish capital. As it happened with James Rodríguez and Keylor Navas before him, there were many reports that pointed to the fact that Florentino Pérez had agreed to bringing the forward over from Manchester United in order to make an impact with the Mexican authorities that were in charge of deciding whether a few projects where awarded to his company, the global construction holding group ACS.

Real Madrid’s president denied the allegations—just like he had done before with James and Navas. And the little playing time Chicharito has gotten (17 appearances and only four starts) makes his words hard to swallow.

THE TECHNICAL ASPECT. Forwards like Álvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuaín or Emmanuel Adebayor have not made it at Real Madrid in the last few years. They’ve all had their chances, and simply haven’t been able to convince the fans and managers. There were, obviously, quite different reasons in each of those cases, but the overall factor was clear: technically, these goal scorers weren’t up to par with the rest of the squad (and the team’s historically high standards for its strikers). Chicharito had a few brilliant appearances in the first months of the competition, but his inability to connect with the team on the pitch beyond taking the last shot on goal has made the Mexican become more of a nuisance than an asset for the team.

THE COMPETITIVE ASPECT. Real Madrid has an impressive attacking line. Benzema, Bale and Ronaldo (nicknamed BBC) are nonnegotiable for Carlo Ancelotti, and Isco Alarcón—now playing as an all-terrain midfielder—has quickly crashed that very selective club of players. Jesé, the youth systems superstar, has recovered from a serious knee injury and become the first attacker in the rotation, which makes Chicharito’s battle for any given minute of playing time uphill.

As of late, however, Ancelotti has given the Mexican striker the chance to come in during the last 10 to five minutes of each game, but these have been the matches in which the Whites have actually lost the four-point difference they had over FC Barcelona in La Liga (defeats against Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, and a draw against Villarreal). Chicharito’s inability to make an impact in these games has only helped in making the former Red Devil the poster child for the club’s current crisis.

While many think Hernández has no other choice but to keep fighting, reality tells quite a different story. The competition he faces at Real Madrid is so fierce that he may as well come to terms with the fact that he is looking at his last few months in the European champions and start planning his exit next summer.

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.