CARSON, Calif. – Jorge Vergara smiles broadly for a man being reminded how he became a $190 million loser in what he now admits could be soccer’s Deal of the Century.
When Vergara, owner of Mexican league side Chivas Guadalajara, sold Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez to Manchester United for $10 million a year ago, he felt he was executing a decent bit of business by getting a tidy sum for a highly promising but unproven international player.
Twelve months later, Hernandez will step into Saturday’s Champions League final against Barcelona at London’s Wembley Stadium as one of the hottest players on the planet, having scored 20 goals in a spectacular season for United and won the club’s Fans’ Player of the Year award.
United is expected to try to tie him down to a new long-term contract this summer. His original United deal is worth about $1.5 million per season, but that figure could increase fourfold.
In terms of his transfer value, recent estimates put his worth – which is evaluated on factors such as age, performances and potential – at more than $100 million. Vergara believes that figure should be doubled.
“When we were having discussions, I threatened [United boss Sir Alex] Ferguson,” said Vergara in an interview with Yahoo! Sports. Vergara also owns Major League Soccer team Chivas USA and was speaking at halftime of the team’s clash with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. “I told him that he didn’t even know just what he was taking.
“[Ferguson] knew that [Hernandez] was good but I told him he is better than you think. My belief in life is that we made a good [piece of] business, a very good one, but someone has to make the last buck always. Why be angry about that? I am happy, we did good and got a lot of benefits. Someone always makes the last buck, or in this case the last 200 million bucks.
“And I said it one year ago and I will say it again, he is going to be the best player in the world.”
Hernandez signed before the World Cup when he was still relatively unknown in Europe, despite having performed solidly for Chivas and the Mexican national team. The deal was conducted in such secrecy than even Hernandez’s own agent and his grandfather were not informed until the contract had been signed. The arrangement included a provision that United would visit Guadalajara for an exhibition game to open Chivas’ new stadium last July.
United, concerned that other giant European clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid would enter the bidding for Hernandez, was determined to complete the deal prior to the World Cup. That decision proved inspired as Hernandez announced himself to the world in South Africa, helping Mexico upset France in the group stage and also scoring in his team’s defeat to Argentina in the round of 16.
While Hernandez, whose nickname “Chicharito” means “Little Pea” in Spanish, has always been blessed with explosive speed and his overall abilities have been honed in Manchester. The benefit of working with United’s famed coaching staff and being surrounded by a squad packed with international superstars was immediately apparent.
Vergara’s prediction that he would be the world’s best came off as paternal and overly optimistic a year ago but can no longer be met with skepticism. Admittedly, it will take more than one season for Hernandez to be able to claim he belongs in such company as Barca’s trio of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, or with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, at just 22 years old and improving all the time, he may be included in that elite circle before long.
“It all comes from the attitude,” Vergara said. “He is always really prepared. The attitude combined with the talent of his body and the interaction with Ferguson has made him so much better. He really enjoys what he does and he plays with so much heart.
“I will be going to the [Champions League final] and I hope he will be the one who gives the championship to Manchester.”