With one round of play remaining in the Bundesliga, the race for the fourth and final Champions League spot and the battle for relegation look set to rage on until the final whistle has blown. However, the top three have been settled for some weeks now with Bayern Munich predictably topping the league followed by Borussia Dortmund.
Sitting in third place, and in the final berth for automatic qualification, are Bayer Leverkusen, who owe their excellent season in large part to the goals of one Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
It’s no exaggeration to say that moving to Germany has absolutely revitalized Hernandez’s career. A prolific striker with a pedigree that includes five years at Manchester United and a loan stint at Real Madrid, Chicharito had found playing time hard to come by at Louis van Gaal’s United. However, since moving to the BayArena at the tail end of the transfer window last summer, he’s been first-choice striker for Roger Schmidt’s Leverkusen.
The Mexican international has repaid the coach’s faith with 17 Bundesliga goals and 26 in all competitions. Chicharito’s goals have helped Leverkusen rocket up the table this season, with third place wrapped up a full two weeks before the season’s end.
Chicharito’s return to his best also comes at a perfect time for Mexico’s participation in the Copa America Centenario this summer in the United States. With 43 goals for Mexico, the 27-year-old is on the verge of becoming the all-time leading goal-scorer for El Tri, and many expect him to tie or surpass Jared Borgetti’s record of 46 at this summer’s Copa.
“He’s almost too good for Bayer,” admitted Fox Sports commentator, Thomas Hitzlsperger recently.
Indeed, one of the big questions surrounding Chicharito currently is where he will be playing his football next season. Last month, he played it coy when asked about his future at the Bundesliga outfit.
“My future doesn’t only hinge on me,” he said in an interview with Bild. “I live in the here and now. You can plan everything in life, but sometimes life plans for you.”
Having been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool, a return to the Premier League doesn’t seem out of the question for Hernandez. There were also rumors that Bayern Munich might make a move for him after he met briefly with incoming Bayern coach, Carlo Ancelotti in Canada last month.
But with Leverkusen safely over the line into next season’s Champions League, the incentive to remain there will undoubtedly be greater for the striker who began his career at Chivas de Guadalajara in Liga MX. “We want to qualify for the Champions League, without the playoffs,” he told Bild. “Everyone wants to play in the best competition in this world.”
Having safely arrived at his season’s principle goal, and become the all-time highest-scoring Mexican player in the Bundesliga along the way, Chicharito can enjoy Leverkusen’s final match of the season as the club welcomes Ingolstadt to the BayArena on Saturday May 14. You can also catch Chicharito playing in this summer’s Copa America. Mexico opens their tournament against Uruguay at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.