The dramatic conclusion of the European soccer season fast approaches, and while FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney figure to be front and center in a matchup of power clubs for the Champions League title, FC Barcelona will have another forward of which to be mindful: Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.
Chicharito is the one guy plenty of folks in our part of the world can relate to most. FCB and MU have their fans, but Chicharito, who will pair up top with Rooney Saturday in the final, is from Mexico; he's well known in North America and will certainly be a major draw for potential viewers in the U.S. and Mexico.
Plus he can play. Chicharito, just 22, is the first Mexican to play for Manchester United ever. On January 4, not six months after signing with Manchester United, he became the all-time leading Mexican scorer in English Premier League history. In his first season in England with the storied Red Devils, Chicharito scored 13 goals in 27 EPL matches played and four more in UEFA Champions League match play.
"I played against him in the World Cup (2010) and he also scored against us," Messi, a native of Argentina, told Goal.com. "He's a very fast player, a very intelligent striker and adapted well at a great club like United in a short space of time."
That description sounds a lot like Messi, the diminutive yet irrepressible offensive force for Barca who scored against Man U in the UEFA Champions League final in 2009 in Rome, which FCB won 2-0.
Messi, the FIFA 2010 Ballon d'Or winner as the World Player of the Year, has 11 goals in current Champions League play. He also has a technically superior and high-scoring team around him, making FC Barcelona the favorite to lift the trophy.
Rooney's Red Devils have a very strong defense, and Rooney himself isn't quite the prolific scorer that Messi is. But Rooney has a knack for scoring at key moments, and can use the attention paid to Chicharito to his advantage in the counter-attack.
Rooney's movement off the ball makes him the more versatile player compared to Messi, whose strengths are his wizardry with the ball and his quick-strike ability.
For news, opinion, and feature articles leading up to the UEFA Champions League final, bookmark this StoryStream and check it often. We'll have new posts right here throughout the week, during the game, and after the game. For more on the entire world of footy, check out SB Nation Soccer. Manchester United fans should head over to The Busby Babe, while Barcelona fans should check out Barca Blaugranes.
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