There was David Beckham, then Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And now, in what could be the biggest personnel move in franchise history, the Galaxy are closing in on an agreement with Mexican star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
The team and player continued talks Tuesday, and a deal had not been finalized. However, a person with knowledge of the situation said an agreement “seems likely” and the club was starting to make preliminary arrangements for an announcement. The person spoke anonymously because a contract had not been signed.
Over the weekend, general manager Dennis te Kloese confirmed the Galaxy was negotiating for Hernandez, 31, who in September moved from England’s West Ham United to Sevilla for a transfer fee of approximately $8.7 million. It is unclear how much of a transfer fee the Galaxy would have to pay Sevilla. The Spanish club has a track record of successfully flipping players for a profit, but Hernandez has appeared in only two league games since Nov. 2.
The largest transfer fee the Galaxy have paid for a player was $7 million, for Giovani dos Santos in 2015.
Though his nickname translates to “little pea,” Hernandez is a relatively physical 5-foot-9 striker who is an explosive scorer. Since debuting for Mexico’s national team in 2009, he has played 109 international games and has 52 goals, making him the squad’s career scoring leader. In 244 games in the English Premier League since 2010, he has 89 goals, making appearances for Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham United before joining Sevilla.
Hernandez is known as “Chicharito” because his father, a former Mexican national team midfielder of the same formal name, was nicknamed “Chicharo.” Hernandez’s maternal grandfather, Tomas Balcazar, also played for the Mexican national team.
The Galaxy are hoping Hernandez can replace Ibrahimovic in the lineup and as box office draw. Ibrahimovic, an electric talent with a bombastic personality, scored 52 goals in 56 appearances over two seasons with the Galaxy and became the face of the franchise before leaving the team recently to sign with AC Milan. Losing him as an attraction was an especially significant blow considering the popularity of Carlos Vela, the Mexican star who was Major League Soccer’s MVP in 2019 playing for LAFC, the Galaxy’s bitter rival.
Vela, 30, scored a league-record 34 goals last season, sparking LAFC to a league-best 21-4-9 record before an upset loss to Seattle in the Western Conference final. Asked Monday about rumors that Hernandez was headed to the Galaxy, Vela said, “Would I like to see it happen? Of course. He’s a scoring machine … and he does a really good job defending. I think the Mexican fans would be excited.”
Hernandez is less than half a year into a three-year $9.7-million deal with Sevilla, and any deal with the Galaxy would probably include a raise. But with Ibrahimovic’s $7.2-million contract off the books, the team has money to spend.
Whatever the team’s investment, Hernandez is a proven draw. He is the most popular Mexican player in the United States — his national team jersey has been among soccer’s best-selling shirts for nearly a decade — and has an especially strong following in Southern California.
Asked about a potential move to an MLS franchise in November, Hernandez told Times reporter Kevin Baxter in a telephone interview: “I want to be as open as I can to any opportunity, and then when I need to decide something in the future, those decisions, I will think about them and try to get the best one. MLS is a league that is improving.”