Like a master sommelier drawing on years of learning to sniff a glass of wine and identify it—South Australia, Clare Valley, 2009 Riesling—the 5' 8", 156-pound Chicharito uses the sum of his experiences to smell an impending cross and decide in an instant which run to make. Leverkusen midfielder Kevin Kampl is advancing with the ball down the right channel and passes it even wider right toward an onrushing Admir Mehmedi.
This story first appeared in the May 30, 2016 issue of Sports Illustrated. ********** English is not the first language of Javier Hernández, the golden boy of Mexican soccer, and yet his command of it—largely from his four years at Manchester United—is such that he enjoys transporting evocative expressions from Spanish into his newer tongue.
Flashing a language maven’s smile that brightens a rainy day in the German Rhineland, North America’s greatest modern striker explains his knack for being in the right place at the right time in the penalty box.
Now in situations where big teams suffer shock defeats, it’s very easy to focus on the woes of the losers, so let’s credit Bayer Leverkusen here.
The coaching duo of Sascha Lewandowski and Sami Hyypia are doing a good job at the Bay Arena.
In the coming weeks SI will talk soccer and watch video with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, of Germany and Bayern Munich; defender Vincent Kompany, of Belgium and Manchester City; and midfielder Xabi Alonso, of Spain and Bayern Munich.
To kick things off: Mexican forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernández, of Bayer Leverkusen.
Either way he will have to beat his marker, right back Marcel Risse. It’s why he spends so many hours on the practice field, alone and with his team. If a player starts thinking they don’t need to learn?
“You play this sport in the mind, not only on the field,” Chicharito says. “You need to kick 300 balls [a day] to perfect something,” he says.
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“If [your opponent] is more clever than you, you can be faster and stronger, but probably you are not going to beat him. On crosses, sometimes I make my move one or two seconds before the ball is coming because I’m trying to guess that the ball is coming there.