After an examination of why the move makes obvious sense for LAFC, let’s turn our attention to why LAFC also makes sense for Chicharito in 2018.
First season syndrome
He’s Mexico’s biggest star of his generation, and arguably the second-most accomplished Mexican playing soccer right now, next to the ageless Rafa Marquez. But if there is a knock on Chicharito’s game, it’s that he’s shown a habit of having a monster first season in Europe, followed by diminishing returns thereafter.
While his time with Chivas de Guadalajara bucked this trend, with his last year being the clincher for getting a move to Europe, the two teams he’s been on for more than one season across the pond shows a trend.
At Manchester United, he scored 20 goals across all competitions his first season, as they won the English Premier League crown that year and reached the Champions League final. But from there, the goals receded, with 12 the following season, 18 the year after that, and nine in his final full season in Manchester.
What followed was a season on loan at Real Madrid, where he scored nine goals across all competitions, while being the fourth or fifth option at striker there. Since he was only there a year, we can’t see the trend because there wasn’t a second season.
Then, he made the move to Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, where he scored 26 goals across all competitions last season, a spectacular number. While the current season is ongoing and it’s impossible to know how it will shake out, he’s notched seven goals, so he’s roughly on pace for 14 for the campaign, which is a pretty big slide.
It seems like a change of scenery rejuvenates Chicharito, before familiarity or bad luck or injuries (to be fair, he’s been sidelined by injuries in his second seasons at both Man United and Leverkusen) drops his goal totals in subsequent seasons.
But wait, you’re surely saying, if Chicharito is only capable of playing lights-out soccer for one season, is he really the best move for LAFC? I still think he is, and I think the biggest star currently in MLS is a good corollary for what Chicharito can do in this league.
The Sebastian Giovinco conundrum
I think most people figured Giovinco was going to be at least decent when he signed for Toronto FC in 2015, but there were actually questions about how he was going to slot into the league. For a league touted as so physical, with so much running, would a very small man coming from the comparatively languid Serie A really take off in MLS?
It turned out he could, and how, turning in quite possibly the best single season performance in MLS history in 2015 and battling through a midseason slump to turn in a season most players would cherish last year.
But in Italy, Giovinco constantly had questions surrounding him. He was good enough to have breakout seasons, following by seasons where he struggled or was buried on the bench. Juventus continually loaned him out and brought him back, in part based on the complex co-ownership arrangements of the era, but in part because he was a total conundrum. Was this guy for real? Could a team count on him to consistently perform?
In the end, Juventus’ impatience became Toronto FC’s windfall, and there’s no question Giovinco has thrived in MLS. He’s still on a team with relative stars, but he’s the man. And two seasons in, he’s performed at a level that is raising the bar for everyone in the league.
The same could very likely happen for Chicharito. There’s no question MLS is not at the level of the Bundesliga, La Liga or English Premier League, and so the killer first season followed by lesser returns in subsequent years would probably be less likely to occur in MLS for him.
Add to that the cachet he would get by being a “big fish” a la Giovinco in MLS, and Chicharito could truly thrive at LAFC. Away from the blinding lights of the top European leagues and Liga MX, but close enough to home to be a massive star, he could be the man for his team and build a legacy in Los Angeles, something that would most certainly endear him to American, Mexican and other audiences alike.
There’s a stigma against stars going to MLS too close to their prime, and if Chicharito did that with LAFC next year, he’d get the heat, too. But the example of Giovinco demonstrates that excellent players can dominate over multiple seasons, without making their way through the season too easily. Giovinco has helped Toronto FC climb unprecedented heights, but they still haven’t won MLS Cup yet. And Chicharito could potentially find the quality of play and atmosphere to be perfect for this stage in his career.
It makes sense for LAFC, and it makes sense for Chicharito, too. Now, will we see it happen? Stay tuned.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!