Chichar­ito wants to be cen­ter of Gal­axy

Antelope Valley Press - - AV OUTDOORS - By GREG BEACHAM

CAR­SON — Javier Hernán­dez has been to the top of the soc­cer world. He spent the last 10 years in Europe’s top leagues, win­ning tro­phies and rep­re­sent­ing some of the big­gest clubs.

Yet from Manch­ester United to Sevilla, the Mex­i­can striker bet­ter known as Chichar­ito of­ten strug­gled to get con­sis­tent play­ing time.

Whether his path was blocked by Wayne Rooney’s bril­liance or a man­ager’s lack of con­fi­dence in him, Hernán­dez rarely got to show his full tal­ent. When he wasn’t fight­ing in­juries, he of­ten served as a key backup in­stead of a cen­ter­piece.

That’s the main rea­son the 31-year-old Hernán­dez agreed to re­turn to North Amer­ica with the LA Gal­axy, who in­tro­duced their lat­est su­per­star ac­qui­si­tion Thurs­day.

Chichar­ito is the cen­ter of the Gal­axy now, and he is thrilled.

“I just want to play,” Hernán­dez said in his dis­tinc­tively rapid bilin­gual de­liv­ery. “This league and this team, it’s giv­ing me that op­por­tu­nity (to show) that I’m one of the best play­ers around the world. That’s why they want me to be here, to try to im­prove this league and this team . ... It’s a win-win-win-win. I know I’ll be on the pitch most of the time if I keep work­ing hard for the club. I’m go­ing to be do­ing what I loved since I was in the belly of my mother.”

With Chichar­ito play­ing in only nine games so far this sea­son for Sevilla, the tim­ing was fi­nally per­fect for this long-ru­mored com­bi­na­tion of player and club.

While the Gal­axy made ma­jor im­prove­ments and reached the play­offs last sea­son be­hind Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic’s fran­chise-record 30 goals, they des­per­ately needed an­other topflight striker at the cen­ter of coach Guillermo Bar­ros Sch­e­lotto’s at­tack when Ibrahi­movic chose to re­turn to Europe. Un­like most Ma­jor League Soc­cer clubs, the Gal­axy have the money to go get elite tal­ents, even in the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow.

Hernán­dez is well aware of the five-time MLS cham­pi­ons’ history of land­ing world-class play­ers, reel­ing off his own list of fa­vorites: “Rob­bie Keane. Steven Ger­rard. Gio­vani Dos San­tos. Jonathan Dos San­tos. Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic. Lan­don Dono­van. David Beck­ham, that’s the most iconic one, ob­vi­ously. And then my name is over those. I’m just so blessed and so hum­ble that I can be a part of all this.”

The speedy, shifty Chichar­ito likely fits Bar­ros Sch­lelotto’s style even bet­ter than the hulk­ing Zla­tan, and the Ar­gen­tine coach worked ag­gres­sively be­hind the scenes to land Hernán­dez.

While Chichar­ito’s Euro­pean ca­reer got off to a strong start at Manch­ester United un­der the guid­ance of Sir Alex Fer­gu­son, he re­peat­edly strug­gled else­where.

As­so­ci­ated Press

NEW AR­RIVAL — Los An­ge­les Gal­axy’s Javier “Chichar­ito” Hernán­dez poses for a photo with a Gal­axy jer­sey dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Car­son on Thurs­day.

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