West Ham United’s board earns plenty of the criticism doled out to them. Just in my last column, I wrote that David Gold and David Sullivan are unorganized and it hurts in the transfer market. But the signing of Javier Hernandez, set to be confirmed Tuesday after his medical, looks to be … dare I say genius?
Perhaps that is giving them too much credit. It’s entirely possible that the board didn’t think this deeply into the signing, only seeing an affordable striker with Premier League experience. But really, signing Chicharito is a shrewd deal on multiple levels.
On the pitch, he has scored goals everywhere he has played. For Mexico, he is the all-time leading goal scorer with 48 in 96 appearances at the international level. For Bayer Leverkusen, he put away 28 goals in 54 league appearances, including 17 goals in 25 Bundesliga matches two years prior. He is a true poacher, too. For Manchester United, each of his 59 goals were scored inside the box, and 52 were on first-time finishes.
The awareness in the box, the ability to predict deflections and rebounds for easy put-backs, is something the Hammers have been screaming out for. Andy Carroll can score from inside the box, but it is generally off his head from a big, looping cross. Manuel Lanzini can finish inside the box, but from midfield, he has too much ground to cover to afford spending time finding open space.
Chicharito brings a new skill set to the side and should fill the need for a striker, one which has plagued West Ham’s ability to take the next step as a club since promotion from the Championship in 2012. Diafra Sakho was the last striker to record a double-digit goal tally (10) in 2014/15. Kevin Nolan did it from midfield in 2012/13. Hernandez has done it in seven of eight seasons since 2009.
Off the pitch, though, the Hammers can expect quite an increase in global popularity. Arguably, the Hammers haven’t had this level of star power surrounding a new signing since Carlos Tevez. Dimitri Payet turned into an international star, but he was a shot in the dark when he joined in 2015. Alex Song was quite a scoop from Barcelona, but it was initially only a loan deal.
But just by announcing a fee had been agreed for Hernandez, West Ham’s official Twitter page took off. It started with two million followers on July 20, but after confirming the link to 29-year-old Mexican star, the account gained 100,000 followers within two days, according to Socialbakers.
When Hernandez landed at Heathrow Airport on Monday, Univision was there to film him en route to east London for his medical. When has Univision ever done paparazzi work regarding West Ham? Well, expect it to happen plenty more with the “Little Pea” donning the claret and blue.
Hernandez liked a tweet of the Récord, a Mexican daily sports newspaper, with himself on the cover photoshopped in a West Ham kit. Followers of Bayer Leverkusen vowed to follow West Ham instead, and there was a recommendation to the Hammers’ media team to create a Spanish Twitter account for all of the new fans. Also, Hernandez ranked as ESPN’s 70th most popular athlete in the world in May.
All this added attraction for £16 million? A much more economical job of brand exposure than last summer’s USA Tour.
It’s hard to argue with the weight of Chicharito’s 8.19 million Twitter followers. Those fans will follow the striker from team to team. The Hammers are lucky enough to have the striker on the pitch, but must be even more grateful for the fans Hernandez is bringing along for the ride.