Raul Jimenez has a big chance to pass Javier Hernandez as Mexico No. 9
At the moment, there is no doubt that Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is Mexico's No.1 striker. With an outstanding total of 50 goals collected for El Tri, no other player in the history of the national team has found the back of the net more often than the 30-year-old.
Hernandez's significance was also made quite clear in the recent World Cup. In Russia this summer, Chicharito was unsurprisingly given the start in all four of Mexico's matches. Few players in the current roster rotation, if any, are more important for El Tri than Hernandez. And yet, there is no guarantee that his reign as Mexico's top striker will continue to last in the near future.
Although millions will focus on Hernandez once his season kicks off with West Ham United, others will be keeping a close eye on a fellow Mexican also in the next English Premier League: Raul Jimenez.
Following a recent loan move to the Wolverhampton Wanderers from Benfica, the 27-year-old will now have an enticing opportunity to overshadow the veteran. Blessed with excellent stamina, strength and an admirable work-rate, the former Club America striker will easily be one of the players to watch over the new season for Wolves. Assuming that the promoted side will continue using the 3-4-3 formation that got them there, Jimenez should have no problems transitioning into their setup.
"I am proud of being here," said Jimenez in a video released earlier this month by Wolves TV. "I think this season, it's going to be a good season for us: I wanted a new challenge."
It's far too early in the preseason to determine whether Jimenez will thrive, but after only a few weeks with the club it seems as though he is quickly adapting to his new surroundings.
Following a starting spot during Wednesday's 0-0 draw against Stoke City, there was no lack of upbeat comments regarding Jimenez from Wolves fans in attendance.
Of course, this should all be taken with a grain of salt. Jimenez has yet to make his Premier League debut and he faces an immense amount of work ahead of him in the next several months. Regular minutes aren't guaranteed, either. The likes of Leo Bonatini and Diogo Jota will make things complicated when it comes to carving out a regular first-team place. Coupled with the imposing task of creating goal-scoring opportunities against world-class defenders, this season will likely be the most strenuous and difficult of his career.
All that said, Jimenez appears ambitious with his latest move to England and one way of stealing the limelight away from Hernandez is by flourishing in the same league. If Jimenez is able to collect more goals than his Mexican compatriot, it would mark the beginning of the end of Hernandez's tenure as El Tri's unquestioned leader up front.
A little under one year from now, we might even see Jimenez as the starter for Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Keeping in mind that he only turned 27 a couple of months back and that Hernandez is 30, it wouldn't be unwise to begin looking ahead to the 2022 World Cup process with the Wolves player up top.
Of course, this assumes that Hernandez doesn't rediscover his form with West Ham. Although he only scored eight times for the London club last season, the striker might be able to turn things around under the new management of Manuel Pellegrini.
Back home, it will also be interesting to see how the Chicharito vs. Jimenez argument will develop within the Mexico fan base. Following yet another average World Cup, it appears as though it's only a matter of time before the discussion gets more heated. The fact that both players are former stars from Liga MX rivals Chivas and Club America shouldn't be overlooked either. Countless Chivas fans still hold a place in their heart for Hernandez, just as many Club America supporters pine for days in which their tall striker was a part of the squad's attack.
Either way, the battle for Mexico's striker position will be an intriguing one to follow once the 2018-19 Premier League season kicks off. With a golden opportunity on the biggest stage of his club career, Jimenez will undoubtedly make the race against Chicharito tighter than ever before.