West Ham United v Bayer Leverkusen

West Ham United's Leverkusen links

The Little Pea

Javier Hernández likely does not look back on his two-season spell with West Ham United with great fondness, as injuries and illness meant we did not see the absolute best of him in east London, but he still made his mark in Claret and Blue.

The Mexican striking great, nicknamed Chicharito (‘The Little Pea’ in English) arrived from Bayer Leverkusen in July 2017, having enjoyed two prolific seasons in the Bundesliga.

The former Manchester United marksman had plundered 28 goals in just 54 league games for Leverkusen, while he also netted eleven in 22 cup ties to give him a goalscoring ratio of better than a goal every two games for the club.

Chicharito scored goals for both Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham United

At West Ham, he dealt with glandular fever and two changes of manager – from Slaven Bilić to David Moyes to Manuel Pellegrini – but still managed to score 17 times in 63 games before departing for Spanish club Sevilla at the end of the summer 2019 transfer window.

Now 35, Chicharito is back with his first club Guadalajara in Mexico, having returned home following three years in the MLS with LA Galaxy in the United States.


Plenty of familiar Premier League faces

Bayer Leverkusen have plenty of familiar Premier League faces in their ranks.

Head coach Xabi Alonso, of course, spent five years with Liverpool, where he helped to transform the Anfield club under the management of fellow Spaniard Rafael Benítez after signing in the summer of 2004.

Alonso scored in Liverpool’s 2005 UEFA Champions League final win over AC Milan, then started the Reds’ UEFA Super Cup win over CSKA Moscow that August and the FA Cup final victory over West Ham United the following year.

After completing his playing career with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and winning a FIFA World Cup and two UEFA European Championships with Spain, Alonso retired in 2017, before embarking on a coaching career with Real Sociedad and, since October 2022, Bayer Leverkusen.

Alonso’s squad has a definite Premier League feel about it, with three players who have appeared in English football’s top flight now wearing Leverkusen colours.

Xabi Alonso challenges Dean Ashton during the 2006 FA Cup final

Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka spent seven years with Arsenal between 2016-23. During that time, he faced West Ham on 14 occasions, winning ten of the meetings and losing just once.

Dutch defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah joined Manchester United from Ajax in 2014, aged 16. The Amsterdam-born player spent five years with the Red Devils, appearing 16 times in the Premier League and in 30 games in all competitions. He also added 33 Premier League appearances during loan spells with Crystal Palace and Fulham before moving to Leverkusen in January 2021.

Nigeria international Nathan Tella made 44 appearances for Southampton, where he played alongside James Ward-Prowse in 41 of those games. The only other player he has lined up alongside on more occasions is former Hammer Josh Cullen, who he played with 42 times at Burnley, where the pair won promotion from the EFL Championship last season.

Nathan Tella celebrates scoring for Southampton with James Ward-Prowse in 2021

Leverkusen’s Czech goalkeeper Matěj Kovář joined Manchester United in 2018 and spent five years on the Old Trafford club’s books, without making a first-team appearance. However, the 23-year-old did have loan spells with EFL sides Swindon Town and Burton Albion, totaling 27 appearances in English football.

Kovář is one of three Leverkusen players, the other two being Patrik Schick and Adam Hložek, who are Czech Republic national team colleagues of Vladimír Coufal and Tomáš Souček.

A number of other Leverkusen and West Ham players are international colleagues, including Odilon Kossounou and Maxwel Cornet (Ivory Coast), Amine Adli and Nayef Aguerd (Morocco), and Arthur and Lucas Paquetá (Brazil).


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