What we all knew has finally been confirmed.
Mexico has announced its preliminary roster for the 2022 World Cup, and there is one notable omission, though not a surprise. Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, will not be on that plane to Qatar in November. And it has nothing to do with actual football.
If you’re trying to make sense of it, don’t.
Since arriving in Major League Soccer, Hernández has been one of the most consistent players at what he does best – scoring goals. His first season in 2020 was a tumultuous one as he navigated personal issues that undoubtedly had an impact on his performances. He bounced back and scored 17 goals the following season, just two short of the Golden Boot winner, and that was even after missing a long period of time through injury.
This year he scored 18 and led the LA Galaxy to fourth place in the Western Conference, the franchise’s best since 2016.
Playing in LA also serves as a reminder to Chicharito of how much Mexicans love him. Even rival LAFC fans put aside their club’s rooting interests when hoping to get a photo or autograph. His status as a Mexican legend is set in stone.
However, ask disgruntled coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino about Hernández and he’ll tell you he’s simply decided to go with other strikers.
Rogelio Funes Mori, Alexis Vega, Henry Martin and Jesús Corona are some of the players he chooses instead. Corona, however, is still injured after fracturing his fibula in the summer, as is Raul Jimenez. Martino has stated that he will wait until the “last minute” for Jimenez and Corona to recover from their injuries before deciding whether they will join the team heading to Qatar.
But through the qualifiers and friendlies, it’s clear that El Tri’s biggest area of concern is in the final third. Creating chances and scoring goals has been a headache, and also a huge talking point when you fail to give someone so iconic to a country a chance to help.
Whatever internal strife Tata has with Chicharito, it was the coach’s pride and stubbornness that kept him off the list. Hernández, unlike his Los Angeles counterpart, Carlos Vela, still has hopes of wearing the jersey of El Tri.
Recently he was on Instagram with the famous Mexican Formula 1 driver Sergio “Checo” Pérez and hinted at it once again. Checo jokingly asks Chicharito, “when are you going to the World Cup?”
Hernandez laughed in response: “It’s not up to me, you know that. I have my bags ready, but you know it’s not under my control. I did everything possible.”
Checo responded with what many, except the decision-makers in the Mexican Football Federation, are thinking: “You deserve it more than anyone.”
Let’s make this clear, Chicharito wasn’t going to magically fix any problems for El Tri. It’s more about disrespecting and writing off a player of his caliber. One who has played on big stages around the world throughout his decorated career.
When Mexico opens its tournament on Nov. 22 against Poland, he’ll be watching from afar instead of being able to get a chance to help.
And you better believe that in the slightest moments of concern from fans, Chicharito’s name will be at the top of many conversations. Poland have a world class striker in Robert Lewandowski. Argentina has a son named Lionel Messi, among other massive stars like Ángel Di María, Lautaro Martínez and Paulo Dybala.
A 34-year-old striker who has played for the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid would look good in that group. Especially a player who is known as one of the most dynamic in the game due to his movements in the final third.
That ship has sailed for Hernandez in what will likely be his last World Cup.
Regardless of the situation, Chicharito will be rooting for Mexico to hope to make a run at whoever is on the pitch.
And Mexico will be rooting for him, as always, in a completely different way.