Chivas de Guadalajara youth product and Mexico national team star Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez scored his 100th goal in Europe on Tuesday, Bayer Leverkusen's only tally in a 1-1 draw with Monaco in the Champions League. So, we found ourselves wondering: Is the next "Chicharito" currently playing in Mexico's domestic league? ESPN FC asked Tom Marshall, Nayib Moran and Cesar Hernandez to weigh in.
Capable of 100 goals in European football? No
If we are talking about the next great Mexican striker capable of scoring 100 goals at an elite European team, then no. Only two Mexican players have netted four or more goals this Apertura in Liga MX. One, Pachuca's Hirving "Chucky" Lozano, is a winger and the other is Club America's 32-years-old striker Oribe Peralta. Even the top scorer in the under-20 league is Colombian (Tigres' Julian Quinones).
These facts have to be a source of major concern for the future of the Mexico national team and are partly fueled by Liga MX teams using rules like 10/8 to fill their matchday squads with foreign-born players. However, there are some good younger Mexican striking talents, like Chivas' Angel Zaldivar and Toluca's Alexis Vega, and Liga MX youth systems are better than ever.
Keep your eyes peeled for Atlas striker Jairo Torres and Pachuca's Roberto de la Rosa, too. The problem is a blockage in the system in making the jump from being a youth talent to getting regular minutes in Liga MX. That means that teams have to be patient with youngsters. Let's not forget that Hernandez almost quit the game before he broke out and conditions now are much more difficult for young Mexican strikers.
-- Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup)
Yes, and his name is Erick Gutierrez
Pachuca's Erick Gutierrez is not a goalscorer like Hernandez, so the notion that he will be the next "Chicharito" is a bit off the mark, but his tactical intelligence and level of maturity are not far from that of the Bayer Leverkusen star. It's no surprise that at 21 years old, Gutierrez is the captain of Liga MX's defending champion.
Teammate Omar Gonzalez best described how Gutierrez and Pachuca's other top young talents Lozano and Rodolfo Pizarro work each day: "What I like the most is that they are great off the field, but when it's time to work, they put in the work," Gonzalez told ESPN FC in January.
Ever since Pachuca lifted the 2016 Clausura title last May, Gutierrez has worked on improving his passing accuracy as well as his understanding of what it means to be the captain of a team. He's a player that grasps his role in the midfield well and transmits serenity and calm to the rest of his teammates.
Gutierrez doesn't lose sleep over the idea of moving to Europe. "Chicharito" was 22 when he moved to Manchester United, so the Pachuca youngster is nearing the moment to pack his bags and head to the big leagues. But, before doing so, his goal is to help Pachuca lift more titles.
Gutierrez is a Mexican footballer who can benefit from "Chicharito" and Marco Fabian's excellent starts to the season in the Bundesliga. His football ticks all the right boxes and he could become the next Mexican footballer to head to Germany. He has all of the tools to arrive in Europe and make an immediate impact wherever he lands, just like "Chicharito" did at Manchester United.
-- Nayib Moran (@nayibmoran)
Don't expect to see him anytime soon
It's nice to imagine that the next Hernandez is currently somewhere in the Mexican domestic league, but at the moment, no footballer stands out as a legitimate contender.
Which isn't to say that there aren't any talented Mexican strikers in Liga MX. At just 18 years old, Vega has been a regular with the Toluca first team and has the potential to be an exciting option for the future of El Tri. Zaldivar, 22, has gained a key role with Chivas this Apertura and currently has three goals to his name with the club. Others, like Club Tijuana's Henry Martin, Cruz Azul's Erick Torres and Atlas' Martin Barragan emerge as interesting options, all of whom have time to develop into effective strikers.
All that said, these are just a few names in a long list of young Mexican players who either don't have the talents to become a "Chicharito" or are still too young to be deemed worthy of having the potential. If another "Chicharito" does come out of the Mexican league, don't expect to see him at any point in the near future.
Depending on your perspective, this can be seen as either a good or bad thing. While some could make the argument that no young Mexican player has the capabilities to become the Bayer Leverkusen striker, others could say that what Hernandez has accomplished is something you'll rarely see in Mexican soccer.
-- Cesar Hernandez (@cesarhfutbol)