Roberto Martinez calls Mexico striker Javier Hernandez a 'pure winner'
BRUSSELS -- Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has admired Javier Hernandez's career from afar and was even keen to bring the Mexico striker to Everton when he was in charge of the Premier League team.
Martinez heaped praise on the 29-year-old West Ham player, who he called a "pure winner," in an interview with ESPN FC on Wednesday and talked about Mexican football ahead of Belgium's match against El Tri on Friday.
"Yes, we've always followed him very closely because he's a player that surprised us a lot with the way he adapted at Manchester United and the way he finishes moves," said Martinez.
"He's a player with so much intelligence with his movement. It was never possible [to sign him], but yes he's been one of the players that we've followed closely."
Hernandez is the only Mexican player to really make an impact in the Premier League in his time at Manchester United and now West Ham and Martinez believes that is partly due to his position on the pitch, as well as his mentality.
"I think it isn't only difficult for Mexican players, the Premier League is difficult for all foreign players," related Martinez. "It depends a little on the environment the player finds himself in; whether they are in a club with more South American or Latin football characteristics, or more physical [teams], which is little bit more distinct.
"I think the great quality of Javier Hernandez is that he's exceptional in the penalty area. In the box is one of the zones in which there is least difference between distinct leagues.
"I think the big difference in the Premier League is the zone between the two penalty areas where the physicality is greater and the way the games are officiated allows contact and that can affect certain players a lot.
"Javier Hernandez is a born goal-scorer who always plays off the last defender and has that quality finishing that is affected a lot less by the characteristics of one or another league.
"But everything goes hand in hand with the mentality. I think he is a pure winner and is a player who always finds a way to be successful in whichever team he plays."
Martinez, speaking in Spanish, added that he considers himself a fan of Liga MX.
"I've always followed all world football," Martinez said. "Mexican football is very competitive and you see the passion of the fans. It's a league with a lot of passion, zeal and a lot of talent. I've always liked the Mexican player."
Martinez also believes that Friday's friendly against Juan Carlos Osorio's Mexico should be an entertaining affair between two teams that generally like to control the ball.
"I think it'll be a great exercise for both national teams," said the Spaniard. "I think both will try to play the same way on the pitch. They'll fight to have the ball, fight to create chances, to defend rapidly, to have a lot of dynamism.
"I think it'll be a very technical game and a match from which both of us will be able to make good conclusions."
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.