Mexico’s Carlos Hermosillo put together some impressive statistics during the course of his long career. A veteran of over 600 club matches, during which he struck 322 goals, he also made 95 appearances for his country, scoring an impressive 35 goals in the process. On top of all that he collected seven league winners’ medals and finished top scorer in the Mexican league on three separate occasions.

Yet, as is usually the case, the numbers only tell half the story. A prodigious header of the ball, the No 27 was a wholly committed competitor whenever he took the field, a quality that ensured him star status in every team he ran out for. One of the game’s born winners, the affable Hermosillo agreed to speak exclusively to about his illustrious playing days and his life outside the game.

A natural goalscorer
Although a thoroughbred finisher, Hermosillo did not have it easy during the early days of his career. “I had trials with every team in the first division and nobody wanted me,” he recalls. “So I went to play in one of the amateur leagues and got a call up to the national team for the 1984 Olympic Games qualifiers. Then America came in and offered me a contract and that’s how I finally got into professional football.”

Having got his foot in the door, the burly front man embarked on a meteoric rise to prominence that resulted in him winning a place in Bora Milutinovic’s squad for the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™. Unfortunately for the 21-year-old, he would spend the tournament on the bench. “I warmed up for every game but didn’t play in any of them,” he explains. “It hurt a lot but it was a great learning experience for me all the same. In the end I was very happy because it was a great team and we just fell short.”

After seven seasons and four league titles with America, a less positive experience in Belgium with Standard Liege and a short but successful stint with Monterrey, Hermosillo joined the club closest to his heart, Cruz Azul. “It was a case of me going back to my roots,” he says. “To start with the fans didn’t accept me because I was in the America side that beat them to the title in 1988/89. In the end, though, there was a lot of love on both sides. I was the leading scorer with them on many occasions and I won a league championship there too.”

Celeste fans still talk about that title, which remains their last and was secured in dramatic circumstances against Leon, with Hermosillo playing a central part, as he himself explains: “I was carrying a rib injury and I came on in extra time wearing a bulletproof vest. We were on the attack and the Leon keeper, Angel Comizzo, crashed into me in the area. My face was covered in blood but when I realised it was a penalty I felt that someone up above had decided my time had come. So I picked myself and scored from the spot. To win the title with the team I’d supported as a kid was an amazing feeling I can tell you.”

The last hurrah
Hermosillo earned a second chance to shine on the big stage at USA 1994. “We had a team of great leaders and fantastic players,” recalls the former striker. “I sat out the opening match against Norway, but I did get a game against Ireland and Italy. When we came up against Bulgaria in the last 16 I was sure it was going to be a very important match for me but I wasn’t selected. It was frustrating because once again we were just a step away from making history.”

After retiring from football, Hermosillo took the somewhat unusual step of going into politics, eventually holding office as Mexico’s Sports Minister. Currently devoting his energies to the ruling Partido Acción Nacional, he is not discounting a return to the sport in which he made his name. “I’m happy with my life but it would be lovely to get back into football again one day.”

Still a keen observer of the game, Hermosillo has high hopes for the current Mexico side and sees the hugely promising Javier Hernandez as his natural heir up front. “The team’s got some fine players and a great coach,” he says. “If they can come together and form a tight unit, they can make history. I think El Chícharito is a wonderful player, the best that Mexico has produced in years. All he needs to do is learn to be patient. Sometimes he comes too deep to get the ball, which means he’s not always in the position he should be.”

Coming from one of the country’s finest poachers of all time, that piece of advice is one the young star would do well to heed. After all, there are not many people who know as much about putting the ball in the back of the net as Carlos Hermosillo.

Carlos Hermosillo
Clubs: América (1983-1989, 1999-2000), Standard de Liege (1990), Monterrey (1990-1991), Cruz Azul (1991-1998), Necaxa (1998), L.A. Galaxy (1998-1999), Atlante (2000), Chivas (2001)
National Team: 90 matches (35 goals)
Titles: Mexican league (83-84, 84-85, 85, 87-88, 88-89, 97, 98).