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The Chicharito Chase: Separating Fact from Speculation

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While rumors can be fun, it's time to separate what we actually know from what's floating around on the internet regarding Orlando City and the pursuit of Mexican international striker Javier Hernandez.

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You've heard a lot of speculation and rumor about Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and the possibility of him joining Orlando City. Possibly you've heard way more than you want to hear. You've also heard a few facts sprinkled in there.

When the transfer window opens and "silly season" begins, it's easy to get caught up in rumor and speculation. There's nothing wrong with that. It can be fun and interesting, but it ultimately is like eating a bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms for dinner* -- as tasty as it is, it doesn't nourish or sustain you.

*I can neither confirm nor deny that I have done this.

It's time to separate the facts from the unsubstantiated rumors when it comes to the Manchester United striker. It's no secret that manager Louis Van Gaal does not see the Mexican international as an integral part of his team, as evidenced by last year's loan to Real Madrid. So, while not 100% a sure thing, it is pretty likely United will sell Hernandez.

Here are the facts as we know them right now:

  • Chicharito is searching for a new team and has noted on multiple occasions that his preference is to stay in Europe.
  • There is interest in Chicharito by European teams, including Liverpool and West Ham in England.
  • Manchester United has not sold a player to Liverpool since the 1960s.
  • La Liga side Sevilla showed interest but has recently agreed to terms with Ciro Immobile of Borussia Dortmund, effectively taking them out of the battle for Hernandez.
  • Orlando City and MLS are both extremely interested in bringing the Mexico star to the U.S. Although initial talks may have broken down, team owner Flavio Augusto da Silva confirmed last night at halftime of City's match against FC Dallas that the team is still in negotiations and that it's early in the process. He repeatedly cautioned that the best thing for the club is not to discuss Hernandez publicly ("the less we talk about Chicharito, the better"). His whole presser can be viewed here but in my opinion, this is the money quote:

"We are in the beginning of the conversation. We hope in the next one or two weeks to be able to talk about Chicharito in a different way."

  • If Chicharito signs with MLS in this transfer window, he will become one of the highest -- if not the highest -- paid player in the league. This is a product of the market and, if an aging Andrea Pirlo is worth $8 million per year, a star striker in his prime is certainly worthy of a salary in that ballpark.
  • Hernandez is recovering from a broken collarbone. While he'll be several weeks away from returning to the pitch, the injury is not expected to impact his capabilities on the pitch. Because of this, it should also not have a significant impact on his price tag.
  • Regardless of what that price tag may be, merchandise sales will more than pay back the club and MLS several times over. David Beckham merch sales basically paid his wages before he even played a game with LA Galaxy. Hernandez has a similar kind of international appeal.
  • If Chicharito comes to MLS, it will almost certainly be to Orlando City.

Here's what we don't know:

  • What is the actual cost of bringing Chicharito in? Sure, we've heard that he's seeking $10 million or more per season (see link above to Paul Tenorio's story), and that Manchester United has a hefty transfer fee attached to him. It's certainly within their rights to try to get a return on investment for the player, but who foots that bill? Is it an automatic that Orlando City's ownership must pay the transfer fee? Or is this one of those special situations where if MLS wants a player badly enough, the league office will help mitigate those costs? With MLS being as opaque as it is, there's no way of really knowing.
  • Would Hernandez rather compete for trophies in a perceived "lesser league" or star for a team battling to avoid relegation in one of Europe's big four leagues?
  • Is the highest salary the largest consideration for the star striker?
  • Would shorter travel home for international duty affect his decision at all?
  • How much are talks with MLS being used as leverage in other negotiations?

We know some fans may be getting a bit of "Chicharito fatigue" but there's a reason we keep talking about this player. Actually, there are several.

  1. He's a popular international star who has been heavily linked with Orlando City.
  2. Like Giovinco in Toronto, he's a player in his prime who could come to MLS and immediately elevate the status of the league and its level of play. Adding players in their prime, rather than near-retirees -- like the Gerrards, Lampards and Pirlos -- is an important step for MLS to take.
  3. A lot of people, including a high percentage of our readers, would like to see Hernandez in purple.
  4. He fits one of the team's needs in providing a veteran, consistent scoring threat up top. Cyle Larin has been spectacular at times, but he's a rookie and has sometimes shown the inconsistencies that youth brings. Bryan Rochez brings the same potential issues. Meanwhile, Martin Paterson's injury problems have kept him from becoming that veteran presence up top. And Carlos Rivas and Pedro Ribeiro have proven to be stopgap measures, at best.

So, we'll know in the coming weeks if Orlando City and MLS can convince the Hernandez camp that playing in MLS is in the Mexican's best interests. Either way, the fact that these conversations are even taking place is a significant jump for Major League Soccer.

In the past, there is no way a player in his prime years on a major European soccer power would even be talking to MLS. Now that's happening. And that should be something that excites all Orlando City and MLS fans -- even if Hernandez doesn't ultimately come here.