Chicharito Flops but at LA Galaxy’s Expense
By: Luke Pacifici
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández is one of the biggest soccer stars to come out of Mexico. He had moderately successful seasons at Manchester United but less successful seasons in the latter half of his career. Nonetheless, he was always able to produce goals and he brought a crowd of fans wherever he went. In January of 2020, he signed a contract to join the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer (MLS). Just nine months later, Chicharito is seen as one of the biggest flops in the club’s history. Is this failure caused by a combination of injuries and COVID-19, or was this transfer doomed from the start?
In January of 2020, Chicharito signed a contract to transfer from Sevilla FC (Spain) to the Los Angeles Galaxy for a $9.4million transfer fee. The contract lasts for three years with a guaranteed annual salary of $6million, a salary tied for highest in the league with Michael Bradley of Toronto FC. At the time, the signing was a dream for the Galaxy, which has a reputation of signing soccer stars. In its history, the team boasted players such as David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and most recently, Zlatan Ibrahimović. When Zlatan left MLS and the Galaxy were scrambling for their next star, Chicharito’s signing could not have happened at a more opportune time. The Galaxy had an available designated player spot, needed a striker, and were looking for a new star who could attract the fans. At least on paper, Chicharito was exactly what the Galaxy wanted.
Today, the Galaxy sits in last place in the MLS Western Conference while Chicharito nurses various injuries and keeps the bench warm. In fact, he has scored only two goals this entire season. The regular season ends on November 8 and it looks like the Los Angeles Galaxy is unlikely to qualify for playoffs. Chicharito’s first season with the Los Angeles Galaxy has been labeled as a flop. Given the circumstances, it is time to revisit that costly deal from January.
Clearly, the last couple big “star” transfers have been business focused decisions. Zlatan Ibrahimović, who signed with the Galaxy in 2018, brought loads of revenue for the team. In fact, in 2018 and 2019, his jersey was the top seller in all of MLS. The fact that the team was able to make the playoffs during one of his two seasons was a cherry on top of a huge financial win for the club. When the Galaxy signed Chicharito, it was hoping he would have the same effect Zlatan had. As everyone quickly learned, filling the shoes of Zlatan proved to be a tough task.
The Chicharito contract was a huge risk for the team. However, the idea was to sell jerseys and market Chicharito as the franchise player. In the second line of his introductory press release, the Galaxy included a link for fans to purchase his jersey. Beyond that, the team was looking to market El Tráfico, the Los Angeles rivalry game between LA Galaxy and LAFC, as a battle between compatriots Chicharito and Carlos Vela. The seats at the Galaxy’s stadium were going to be filled and the Galaxy was expecting to roll in tons of money. Just like Zlatan, the spotlight was supposed to be on Chicharito.
Unfortunately, Chicharito’s injuries and the emergence of COVID-19 did not make these expectations a reality. COVID-19 prevented fans from coming to the games, and Chicharito has been injured for most of the year. Due to these two factors, along with consistent losses, the Galaxy has not been able to fully justify the high cost of the player.
Chicharito has not been helping either. The 32-year-old has been inactive in the media and he appears to be disconnected from the team. He is collecting a hefty paycheck, sitting on the bench, and getting closer to his retirement. Additionally, the idea that the LA Galaxy is the beginning of his retirement is not new. When his move to Los Angeles was being finalized, a video of him saying that this was “the beginning of his retirement” went viral.
As for the cherry on top, the fans are not happy. They are not allowed to watch games in person and their superstar is not performing, so at the very least they want to win. The Galaxy is not winning, so almost nothing is going right from the fans’ perspective. The fans even sent an open letter to the Galaxy expressing their frustrations with the organization and the team. This could hurt the Galaxy’s future fan revenue.
As for flipping this apparent sunk cost, the Galaxy can only look to the future. One option was to loan Chicharito to Chivas de Guadalajara of Mexico’s Liga MX, but LA Galaxy General Manager Dennis te Kloese said any report that Chicharito could be headed back to Chivas was “wide of the mark.” In contrast, the Galaxy’s first big decision in preparation for the future was to fire head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto and a few of his assistant coaches. This causes an entire reorganization of the team’s coaching staff, likely with a focus on creating the best supporting cast to make the most out of Chicharito.
There are still two years left on Chicharito’s costly contract and that is plenty of time for the player and the Galaxy to make some good out of the situation. Undoubtedly, the team could have used some of that transfer money to purchase young, new talent, but the Galaxy is stuck with their decision. If Chicharito can come back from injury, play, and score goals, the organization and the fans will surely be a little happier with the signing. It is highly unlikely that the LA Galaxy will be able to immediately recover from all the losses caused by Chicharito and COVID-19, but their plan to market the player as the main attraction could still create some revenue in the future. As for this year, the Galaxy likely won’t be joining the Los Angeles Lakers or the Los Angeles Dodgers at the table of champions.
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