Opinion: Chicharito Great, but Not Quite the Best

So, just how good is Javier Hernández?

In his short time as a professional soccer player, Chicharito has filled the net, dazzled fans, frustrated foes and helped turn his teams into winners. To many fans and observers, he is arguably the best Mexican player of a talented generation. 

But how does he measure up against the greatest players who have worn the storied green Mexico shirt? Is he the best player to represent El Tri?

Well, there is little question about his talent. Chicharito is a heady player -- literally and figuratively -- with a unique vision that allows him to find the right positions to place the ball on net, an uncanny knack to head the ball into the goal or find another teammates with pinpoint passes.

He also plays for one of the greatest clubs on this planet -- Manchester United. Hernández has been exceptional this season, as evidenced by his six goals in 14 games. Five of those scores have come as a sub.

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But Hernández has a long way to go -- for both club and country.

He has the ability and potential to become the great players to wear a Mexican National Team uniform. He scored a goal at the World Cup in South Africa. At the age of 22, that is quite a frightening prospect.

Still, he has to take the next giant step for club and country to be listed among the best, if not near or at the top of a formidable list of players. Among those greats are Jared Borgetti, who retired last week, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, and Claudio Suárez.

While it is difficult to compare players from different eras because of playing styles, we should take a look at the amazing accomplishments of a player who is regarded as the best Mexico has had to offer: Hugo Sánchez.

During his prime, Sánchez was one scary scoring machine. In his 12-year career in Spain's La Liga, Sánchez struck for 218 goals in 318 matches for Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid.

Sánchez led La Liga in scoring for five consecutive years, connecting for at least 27 or more goals in four successive seasons and striking for 38 in 1989-90. While his international career wasn't as outstanding, Sánchez participated in three World Cups and scored 30 goals in 60 appearances.

Given those numbers, I can only imagine how much money Sánchez could make today.

So, Hernández has a long way to go.

Hernández must become a starter for United in the English Premier League, or on another high profile team, and become a dominant player on a consistent basis. Winning a few league titles or a UEFA championship wouldn't hurt, either.

Internationally, he has to become the go-to player for El Tri.

Leading Mexico to the CONCACAF Gold Cup title this June certainly would be a start. A championship would qualify the team for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for the World Cup. And helping the Mexicans to Brazil 2014 would be yet another giant step.

Chicharito is good, for sure, sometimes very good. He has the tools to be outstanding and even great. Only time will tell how great he can become.

Michael Lewis, who has covered international soccer for three decades, can be reached at