Bayer Leverkusen striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez said that he is sure he would have found the same success at either Manchester United or Real Madrid had he been given a chance like he has been for the Bundesliga club.
The Mexico star, who turned 28 on Wednesday, scored 25 goals in 28 Bundesliga games to help Leverkusen into third place and earn them a Champions League spot for next season.
Manchester United’s player of the year in the 2010-11 season spent the 2014-15 struggling out on loan at Real Madrid under then-manager Carlo Ancelotti. He was then returned to United last August before finally joining Leverkusen on a three-year contract.
“If I’d had more chances at United or Real, I’d probably have been ‘the star’ there as well — we’ll never know, because I didn’t have the chance,” Hernandez told FourFourTwo. “I never had the chance to play 20 games in a row so people could say: ‘He’s a good player who should stay’ or ‘He can’t be the star — he’s not a good player.’”
After seeing playing time as a super-sub for Sir Alex Ferguson, the forward made just two appearances under Louis van Gaal before being sent to Madrid on the final day of the 2014 summer transfer window. He scored nine goals in 33 games during his year at Real Madrid, but started just seven times in La Liga games as he struggled under Ancelotti.
“We all know the history of United and Real — European Cups, fighting for everything — but now I’m with the third-best team in the Bundesliga,” he said. “Instead of making Leverkusen sound small, I want people to see that they have similar things. I know it’s not the same as United or Real, but this year was the sixth season that I’d played in the Champions League and next season is going to be my seventh.”
Asked whether he felt he was too humble and should have been more aggressive in pursuit of playing time, Hernandez said: “Then that wouldn’t be me. I don’t want to be someone else. I treat people the way I want them to treat me.
“You don’t need to be arrogant to achieve things. Ask the United fans. The numbers are there. I started only 85 games at United and I scored 60 goals [in total],” he said. “At Real Madrid, I started just 12 games and scored nine goals. At Leverkusen I’ve started 37 games and I have 26 goals. The difference is that Leverkusen want me on the pitch. The others didn’t.”
Hernandez, who is in San Diego as El Tri prepare for Wednesday’s friendly vs. Chile in preparation for the Copa America, said he is looking forward to playing in his first Copa America tournament.
“Hopefully we can have a very good tournament because, after the USA, we’re going to be the local team,” he said. “Whenever we go to the USA we always feel like we are playing in Mexico City, Guadalajara or Monterrey: the stadiums are full and probably 80 or 90 percent of the people there are Mexicans. That’s not going to win you every game, but it’s something that other teams cannot feel. It gives you extra motivation. We have a very good opportunity to make history.”
He added that he is only focused on helping Mexico win the tournament and is not thinking about how close he is to breaking Jared Borgetti’s record of 46 goals scored for Mexico. Hernandez now has 43.
“I’ve never played for the national team just trying to be the top goalscorer,” he said. “A lot of people probably won’t believe me but I only realised that I was in that race to be top goalscorer when I had scored 30 goals. All I try to do is play in the World Cup, win Copa America, win the [CONCACAF] Gold Cup and one day win the World Cup.
“People might say: ‘Win a World Cup? This guy is crazy’ — but why not? Of course I’m going to be happy if I become top goalscorer, but I won’t lose sleep over it.”