Bayer 04 - The Chicharito Effect Continues...

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As Bundesliga's fourth top goal scorer with 17 goals last year and the recipient of the Player of the Month award no less than three times, there is no doubting the positive impact that Chicharito has had on Bayer 04 Leverkusen. After eight wins in the last nine games of the 2015/16 season, Bayer 04 secured Champions League football for a sixth consecutive time after finishing in 3rd place.

However, it was also an amazing season off-the-field for Bayer 04 too as they experienced the biggest social media growth since starting their accounts. Over the course of the year, over one and a half million new fans made their way onto one of Bayer 04's social media platforms making them the third fastest growing football club in Europe. On Instagram alone, they saw a growth figure of around 390% whilst Twitter grew by 188% and Facebook by 81%.

As the figures show, it was a successful year in terms of building the brand and Chicharito had a large hand to play in this. As a Mexican, he has a huge following across North and South America and this is where a large amount of the growth was seen. During the winter break, Bayer 04 took a trip to Florida to take part in a training camp with three fixtures. In just 12 days, they made over 1.6 million impressions on social media and saw over 250,000 unique views when a fixture was live streamed online.

So far this season, the growth has continued and the club are looking to expand their brand over the coming months. With one of the most exciting young squads in Europe, Bayer 04 will be a great watch in the weeks ahead and we can all look forward to two Champions League fixtures against another of Europe's young, talented squads in Tottenham Hotspur. Bayer 04 are now rising the Bundesliga table after a tricky start and managed to see off Borussia Dortmund 2-0 before heading into the international break. After only scoring one in the first four league games, Chicharito now has five goals in the last three games in all competitions and looks to be flying high once again.

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Before the international break, I had a chance to speak to Javier Hernandez and he seemed confident both in his own ability and the ability of the young team forming around him. As mentioned previously, Bayer 04 now has one of the youngest squads in European football and boast a number of international stars including Julian Brandt, Kevin Volland, Karim Bellarabi, Benjamin Henrichs, Kevin Kampl, Jonathan Tah, Charles Aranguiz, Hakan Calhanoglu, and more.

When asked how he manages his own expectations after such a successful season, he said "Of course, we did have a fantastic season last year and that will have raised the expectations of everyone outside of the club. However, I can only focus on my own expectations and push towards my own goals. Football has enough pressure so there isn't a focus on being 'the best' or 'living up to expectations'. Over everything else, playing is the thing I love most and I feel grateful to be playing in such a great competition every week."

During his time in England, Chicharito became one of the most prolific strikers in Premier League history in terms of goals per minute but still struggled to become a regular at Old Trafford. Hernandez was then asked about his flourishing form in Germany and he replied "Yes, I am scoring goals now but I am also playing more games now. Over everything else, playing time is the most important factor for me and I am allowed this at Bayer 04. Last season was a good one and we want to do the same this year, we just have to take it step-by-step. Thankfully, the games are frequent in Germany which means that there is always a next opportunity to play well or rediscover form."

Finally, he also had some advice for younger football players that are looking to take the next step in their career - "Enjoy it. As long as you work hard, everything else will come naturally. Of course, everybody loves to score goals but you must take advice from your trainers. My father used to tell me 'don't get obsessed about scoring goals' and this has stayed with me to this day."

All things considered, it could be another successful season this year for Bayer 04 and they will certainly be a team to look out for in the Champions League. When talking to Chicharito, words like 'young', 'potential', 'belief', and 'hunger' could be heard regularly and there is a general excitement about what this club can achieve in the coming years. In a recent fixture, Chicharito was actually the oldest player on the pitch at just 28 which perhaps says it all. As a football team and as a brand, Bayer 04 Leverkusen are on the rise and it is proving to be a joy to watch.