Few players have been able to make such a big impact on the global football scene after just one breakthrough season as Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez. Blessed with extraordinary talent, professionalism and an unerring nose for goal, as well as charisma and character in abundance, the Manchester United and Mexico striker was undoubtedly one of the stars of the 2010/11 campaign.
Just a few short weeks after playing a leading role in El Tri’s CONCACAF Gold Cup triumph, the No14 took time out from United’s pre-season preparations to chat to FIFA.com about his career so far, his spectacular recent successes and his future plans.
FIFA.com: Javier, what do you think was the key factor in Mexico’s Gold Cup success?
Javier Hernandez: The team’s hard work and commitment were what kept us on the winning trail. We were also very effective in front of goal, but that shouldn’t fool people into thinking it was easy. Right from the off, we said to ourselves that we weren’t under any obligation. We try and win every game we play and every tournament we enter, but success only comes with hard work.
That said, anything other than winning the competition would have been considered a failure back in Mexico…
I don’t agree with that view. Whether we won or lost, we knew what the consequences would be. Our objective was to win the competition and that’s what we did. That was what really mattered and I was really pleased to help give the fans something to celebrate. You have to remember that we went through a lot of difficult moments during the competition, which makes us even happier to have won it. It’s my first trophy with the national team, and it makes me really happy.
In your view, is this the most talented team Mexico have ever had?
I’ve never liked making comparisons. As a player you just have to do what your coach asks of you, and even more so at national-team level. I’m very grateful for the way I’ve been welcomed into the squad and the help I’ve been given. Every second I’ve played for El Tricolor has been great. I don’t live in the past, what drives me is the here and now.
After your national-team exploits, it’s now time to focus on Manchester United once more…
I’ve been treated wonderfully in Manchester, and I simply need to repay that faith. I had a very good first season and I hope to be able to contribute much more. I think there are good times ahead with this team and I’m very excited about the opportunities ahead in the coming season.
In the past, Mexican players have struggled to adapt quickly to life in other countries. What was your secret?
Moving to a new country is always difficult, but the fact my dad and my sister came to live with me was a huge help. That made things easier. In fact, what I miss most about Mexico isn’t the food or the customs, it’s my family and the way we’d all sit around chatting together on an evening.
The fact you already spoke English must have helped too, didn’t it?
I spoke pretty well when I first arrived here, and since then I’ve been improving bit by bit, understanding more and more and speaking better. But the truth is that knowing English was a massive help, because it meant I could communicate in the dressing room and get to know my colleagues more quickly.
In a sharp change of subject, can you tell us how you’ve come to be wearing the No14 for club and country?
In fact, it was pure luck (laughs). When I joined Chivas first I had the No45, then 25 and then the player who was wearing 14 was sold and they gave it to me. By coincidence I was given that number for the (2010) World Cup because Miguel Sabah got injured, and then it turned out to be free at Manchester United too. Curiously, my dad wore that number when he won the title with (Mexican side) Puebla, so it’s quite fitting, even though it wasn’t a deliberate choice and just a series of coincidences.
How did you start out in the game, where did your passion for football come from?
From what I’ve always been told by everyone in my family, they tell me since I was small I always wanted to play with a ball. I used to like going to matches every weekend, I’d learn the players’ names and numbers and my whole life would revolve around football – talking about it, thinking about it and playing it. I just knew I was going to be a professional footballer. Besides, I used to watch my dad out there on the pitch and my grandad would tell me stories (from his playing days) too. It would have been harder not to have been a footballer!
Who were your idols growing up?
Well, I used to watch all the players, and when I saw them doing something exciting I’d try and copy them later. My idols were my dad and my grandad, they always have been and always will be. Aside from them, someone I always looked to imitate was Brazil’s Ronaldo. I used to think he was great and of course Brazil are one of those teams that always catch the eye. Particularly their France ’98 side, which was a class team and earned a lot of admirers thanks to the way they played. But of course, I wasn’t at all happy when they lost in the Final! (laughs)
And finally, what was your verdict on Mexico’s triumph on home soil at the recent FIFA U-17 World Cup?
As I’ve said before, I’ve got nothing but admiration for those lads. I was involved in the in the run-up to Peru 2005, but I didn’t make the squad which won the (U-17) world title – something these lads were able to achieve. They’ve boosted Mexico’s profile everywhere and that makes me feel very proud.