What we all knew was finally confirmed.
Mexico has announced its preliminary squad for the 2022 World Cup, and there is a glaring omission, if not surprising. Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez, won’t be on that plane bound for Qatar in November. It has nothing to do with actual football.
If you’re trying to understand it, don’t do it.
Since arriving in Major League Soccer, Hernandez has been one of the most consistent players at what he does best – scoring goals. His first season in 2020 was tumultuous as he navigated personal issues that clearly had an impact on his performance. He recovered and scored 17 goals the following season, only two behind the Golden Boot winner, and that was even after missing for an extended period of time due to injury.
This year he scored 18 points and led the LA Galaxy to fourth in the Western Conference, the best franchise since 2016.
Playing in Los Angeles is a reminder to Chicharito how much Mexicans love him. Even rival LAFC fans put the club’s interests aside when hoping for a photo or autograph. His stature as a Mexican legend is engraved in stone.
However, ask disgruntled coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino about Hernandez and he will tell you that he simply decided to go with other strikers.
Rogelio Funes Mori, Alexis Vega, Henry Martin and Jesus Corona are some of the players he chose instead. However, Corona is still injured after breaking his fibula fibula during the summer as is Raul Jimenez. Martino has stated that he will wait until the “last minute” for Jimenez and Corona’s injuries to heal before deciding whether to join the team heading to Qatar.
But through the qualifiers and friendlies, it is clear that the Tri-team’s biggest interest is the final third. Creating opportunities and scoring has been a headache, and also a huge talking point when you fail to give someone so special to a country a chance to help.
Whatever the internal feud between Tata and Chicharito, it was the coach’s pride and stubbornness that kept him off the list. Hernandez, unlike his Los Angeles counterpart Carlos Vela, is still hoping to wear the El Tri jersey.
He recently appeared on Instagram with famous Mexican Formula 1 driver Sergio “Checo” Pérez and hinted at it again. Chico jokingly asks Chicharito, “When are you going to the World Cup?”
Hernandez laughed in response: “It doesn’t depend on me, you know that. I have my bags ready but you know this is not under my control. I did everything possible.”
“You deserve it more than anyone else,” Chico responded with what many, along with the decision-makers of the Mexican Football Federation, feel.
Let’s make this clear, Chicharito won’t magically fix any problems for El Tri. It is more about disrespecting and wiping out a player of his caliber. One that played on huge stages all over the world throughout his ornate career.
When Mexico opens its tournament on November 22 against Poland, he will be watching from afar rather than having a chance to help.
And you better believe that at the slightest moments of distress from the fans, the name Chicharito will be at the forefront of many conversations. Poland has world-class striker Robert Lewandowski. Argentina has a man named Lionel Messi, among other huge stars like Angel Di Maria, Lautaro Martinez and Paulo Dybala.
The 34-year-old striker, who has played for clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid, would have looked good in that group. Especially the player who is known to be one of the most dynamic players in the game due to his movements in the last third.
That ship sailed for Hernandez in what was likely to be his last World Cup.
Regardless of the situation, Chicharito will cheer on Mexico with the hope of running with anyone on the field.
And Mexico will find it, as always, in a completely different way.