Bayer Leverkusen have been richly rewarded for the decision to hand over 11 million euros ($12.2 million) for Javier “Chicharito” Hernández last summer and provide the Mexico star with the run of first-team games he craved. Yet less than a year on from his arrival from Manchester United, the Bundesliga outfit fear they may lose their prolific front man.
Hernández has been a sensation since his move to Germany, firing 22 goals in 26 appearances thus far in his first season at Leverkusen. His form has been so impressive that it is thought to have attracted the interest of major clubs back in the English Premier League. And Leverkusen chief executive Michael Schade has conceded that it may require qualification for the Champions League once again for the club to keep hold of their new star asset.
“That could very well be,” he said when the scenario was put to him this week.
Currently sitting in third place in the Bundesliga, Leverkusen currently occupy one of the qualifying spots for Europe’s premier competition. However, with the next four clubs all within only three points of Leverkusen, their position is far from secure. Still, Schade believes that if they do earn a Champions League berth for a third successive season then there will be plenty of reason for Hernández to want to stay right where he is.
“If we reach Champions League we have a very good chance that he stays,” he added. "He wants to be in the spotlight, and wants the people in Mexico see him scoring goals. At Bayer he plays in a team which enables him to do that. He profits from our style of play, and from his teammates. He helps us, but we also help him.”
Leverkusen certainly have helped Hernández. Prior to his move, the 27-year-old appeared at a real career crossroads. After an eye-catching start to life in Europe, when scoring 19 goals in his first season after moving from Chivas to Manchester United in 2010, Hernández’s playing time and thus his contribution had steadily decreased. His opportunities were again limited when shipped out on loan to Real Madrid last season, during which he revealed the difficulty of spending so much time on the sidelines, while adding that regular first-team action was now essential for him to get his career back on track.
At the time, Hernández was even linked with a move to Major League Soccer. Instead, his ambition to still be a major player in Europe meant a transfer to Bayer Leverkusen and continuing in the Champions League, in which he scored five goals in this season’s group stage.
Yet Leverkusen were eliminated before the knockout phase, and, due to Bayern Munich’s dominance, they also have little hope of challenging for the Bundesliga title. Thus there could be an understandable temptation to leave a club where he is thriving and opt to again move to a club capable of chasing the game’s biggest prizes.
Both Arsenal and Liverpool have been strongly linked with Hernández and would present enticing proposals. Arsenal are a regular in the Champions League knockout phase and could be Premier League champions at the end of this season. Liverpool, meanwhile, look poised for a revival in fortunes under the charge of Jurgen Klopp.
If Hernández impresses at this summer’s Copa America Centenario against the best North, Central and South America has to offer, the interest in his services could increase yet further. For Hernández, though, the decision will not be straightforward.