As he navigates the latter stages of a long and winding career, Javier Hernández has been looking inward as he pursues self-fulfillment. 

“You don’t need fame to touch people, to touch the universe,” Hernández told The Athletic. “Fame is only a tool. Fame and money are not the answer in life.”

Over the course of Hernández’s 16-year career, he has gone from tabloid superstar in his native Mexico, appearing in three World Cups for El Tri, becoming Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, and playing for the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid to MLS star attraction on the outside looking in as Mexico prepares for Qatar 2022.  

The 33-year-old is now the face of the Los Angeles Galaxy, and arguably of a league desperately seeking more attention and relevance both domestically and abroad. Hernández is happy to play that part. He’s enjoying his football again, after an unsuccessful final spell in Europe ended in 2020 with Sevilla FC. Since then, life has changed dramatically for Chicharito. 

He was once Mexico’s top-choice striker, long considered one of El Tri’s greatest-ever players. However, today, Hernández is as far away from starring for his national team as he has ever been. And yet, rather than retreating from the public eye, as his international career hangs in the balance, there’s a newfound approachability about him, one that Hernández is willing to engage. 

He speaks openly about accepting and battling depression in 2020, and about managing the sense of self loathing and anxiety that plagued him throughout his stellar career.

“Sometimes in life we want people to solve people’s lives,” Hernández said. “Yes, there are people who go through many rough moments and situations, but we all go through situations. We all carry our own backpack of problems, of demons, of situations that we need to be better with.”

Nine years removed from the roars of Old Trafford, where he played five seasons under Sir Alex Ferguson and scored 37 goals in over 100 appearances, Hernández remains as relevant as ever in North America. This is due in part to his resurgence in MLS after a nightmare first year with the Galaxy in 2020, and his hotly debated ongoing exile from Mexico’s national team. 

Hernández was visibly out of shape during that pandemic-plagued season and, off the field, his life was becoming more difficult to manage. One of the league’s most long-awaited and important signings ever couldn’t stay fit, and looked more like a flop than a star. All of this took a mental toll for Hernández. 

“I got my depression when I was 32 years old,” he said. “I had all of the fame in the world. I had all the career in the world. I had my kids. I had people and I went into my deepest depression.”