Javier “Chicharito” Hernández is enjoying a run of success. scoring four goals in his last five appearances for Real Madrid. Over the course of April, he has changed conversations about his future from “Who will want him when he’s dumped this summer?” to “Has he taken Karim Benzema’s starting role?”
Chicharito’s run of fortune has arrived thanks to injuries to Benzema and Gareth Bale. Today, Hernández was asked how secure he felt about his current starting position, giving him an infinite number of paths he could have walked down with his reply. He chose one of the safest:
“[Being benched is] part of football. Whether I am here or not, all I ask is that my margin of error was minimal. I don’t pick the starting XI and I can’t choose myself and I understand that because there is a world class squad at Real Madrid and only 11 can play. All you can do is play, or wait. Right now I’m getting to play but I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow it will be announced that I am signing for Madrid or going to another club. I’m in the best club in the world and the last thing on my mind is the future; I’m enjoying this moment.”
There are two somewhat contradictory qualities that fans demand from their favorite athletes: ambition and humility. Ambition is a wonderful and necessary trait for any player to have, but where athletes get into trouble is when they publicly express the self-confidence that comes with it. While fans demand that the players on their favorite teams reach for proverbial stars, they seem to hate it when those same players vocalize any of the thoughts that come with the drive to be better.
That contradiction is what makes Chicharito’s quotes so strange. It’s so obvious that he isn’t being genuine. He’s being a “team” player and saying what he’s supposed to keep some imagined peace. But when you watch this man score a goal, it’s clear his passion burns hotter than “All you can do is play, or wait.” To watch Chicharito play in the past month is to watch a man who desperately wants to be great. It’s unfortunate that the culture around the game doesn’t allow him to say so.
What’s the worst that would happen if Chicharito said “Yes, I’m playing better today than I have at any point in the last two years. I believe it’s my time now”? Would the Real Madrid locker room immediately collapse into chaos and violence? Are Benzema and Bale living with some belief that Hernandez wants nothing more than a reserve role?
Why can’t Javier Hernández say what we all know is true: He’s been great lately. It means the world to him. If given his way, he would ride this wave forever. There’s no harm in that kind of honesty.