The Hard Tackle is assessing whether Real Madrid should attempt to re-sign Theo Hernandez from Serie A giants AC Milan in the near future.
During his short professional career at the highest level, Theo Hernandez has seen many ups and downs.
From securing a top-level transfer to Real Madrid as a teenager in the summer of 2017, from local rivals Atletico Madrid, to being part of a UEFA Champions League-winning team in their debut season at the club it seemed like the sky was the limit for the Frenchman.
However, he soon found himself forced to leave the club, with a loan to Real Sociedad followed by a permanent transfer to AC Milan in the summer of 2019. Since his move to Lombardy, however, Hernandez has been able to resume. his career. on the right track and gradually became one of Serie A’s top left-backs.
So much so that Real Madrid are now considering the possibility of bringing him back from AC Milan. Indeed, as reported Calciomercato, the La Liga champions followed Theo’s progress with the Rossoneri and now plan to bring him back to the club in 2023, when the left-back enters the final year of his Serie A heavyweight contract.
The Hard Tackle is examining whether such a move would benefit Real Madrid.
Theo’s career development
Theo Hernandez came through the youth ranks but never made an appearance in the first team. And it was a loan to Deportivo Alaves in the 2016/17 campaign that put the left-back on the map.
The Frenchman has had a solid season with his temporary club, recording two goals and four assists in 38 games. His natural attacking instincts and the way he constantly bombarded the left flank to provide an offensive outlet saw him be compared to a certain Roberto Carlos just after a senior season under his belt.
Alarmed by his rapid growth, Real Madrid called the following summer, snatching them away from their neighbors in a deal worth around € 30million. In doing so, Theo had become the first player to cross the Real-Atleti divide since Santiago Solari in 2000.
Expectations were high from the 19-year-old and of course after his exploits at Deportivo Alaves the previous season. However, things did not go exactly as planned for Real Madrid or Hernandez.
What didn’t go well?
Theo Hernandez’s debut season with Real Madrid was a resounding success at club level as Los Blancos won the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, the Copa del Rey as well as the UEFA Champions League trophy. Being part of such a successful team would certainly have been a wonderful experience for young Theo.
However, on a personal level, things did not go the way he would have liked. Zidane, during his two terms as manager at Real Madrid, has shown fierce loyalty to his most trusted lieutenants. Among them was a certain Marcelo, which meant that Hernandez didn’t have so many chances at the left-back.
The France international has made just 23 appearances for the Merengues in his debut campaign, contributing three assists. The following season saw a manager change as Zidane opted to step down and with the arrival of Julen Lopetegui Hernandez was shown the door with the youngster joining Real Sociedad on a one-season loan.
The defender has had a pretty decent campaign with The Real, but things had gotten more difficult for him in terms of his journey to Real Madrid’s starting XI with Marcelo still the holder while Sergio Reguilon had broken through the youth ranks. Furthermore, Zidane’s return brought in his compatriot Ferland Mendy, pushing Hernandez further up the pecking order.
The lack of chances, the managerial roundabout and increased competition meant that the left-back could never succeed at Real Madrid. And finally, he got a transfer to AC Milan in 2019. Reflecting on his time at the Bernabeu, Hernandez, in a later interview, admitted that he was too young at the time of the transfer and that failing to playing regularly damaged his confidence.
“I couldn’t do my best for Real Madrid because I didn’t have the minutes. Without the minutes you don’t trust. I arrived very young, I have grown up now.
Thrive at AC Milan
Having seen his career take a downward trajectory during his time at Real Madrid, Hernandez was able to turn the tide, and in spectacular fashion, at AC Milan. In his debut season in Italy, the left-back produced a stunning comeback of seven goals and five assists in all competitions, finishing the club’s fourth top scorer for the season.
And, the 23-year-old also continued where he left off in the current campaign, having already managed five goals and six assists in 33 games, playing a vital role in AC Milan’s surprise push for the Serie A title this term.
The numbers Hernandez produced in his two seasons are indicative of how good he is. The fact that AC Milan, led by Stefano Pioli, have set up training and tactics that get the best of him has helped the Frenchman immensely to rediscover his lost confidence and mojo after his time at Real Madrid.
Indeed, the Rossoneri play in a 4-2-3-1 setup in which Hernandez has been allowed to let off steam at will, while the right-back stays behind and offers defensive support. The attacking player on the left wing, usually Ante Rebic, cuts inward in the central areas, giving Theo space to collide and wreak havoc.
As a result, Hernandez’s total shots per 90 minutes in his two seasons with Milan dropped to 1.50 from the 0.83 he had in his four La Liga seasons. His 90-stroke creation actions (SCA90) have also followed an upward curve from 2.17 in La Liga to 2.85 in Serie A, which puts him in the top 11% of chance creators in the Italian top flight. .
While some defensive vulnerabilities remain, Hernandez has improved on this front as well, averaging more tackles, blocks and clearances every ninety minutes in Serie A compared to his time in La Liga. He was also dribbled by an opponent less frequently. (h / t FBRef.com)
|La Liga (4 seasons)||62.9||71||2.17||6||0.18|
|Serie A (2 seasons)||53.3||152||2.85||18||0.34|
|Season||90s||GL||Sh / 90||SoT / 90||xG||G-xG|
|La Liga (4 seasons)||62.9||2||0.83||0.25||1.3||-0.3|
|Serie A (2 seasons)||53.3||ten||1.50||0.49||6.9||+3.1|
A return to Real Madrid in perspective?
As his performances and the numbers indicate, Hernandez, as a player, has made giant strides since his time at Real Madrid. The 23-year-old has himself admitted that he has become a much more mature individual than he was during his time at the Bernabeu, which has been reflected in his growing importance to AC Milan.
Real Madrid, for their part, have seen Ferland Mendy excel at the club and supplant Marcelo as first-choice left-back this season. The Frenchman has been a ubiquitous figure under Zidane this season and at 25 he still has his best years ahead of him.
But the same can’t be said for Marcelo, who has seen his form decline over the past year. The Brazilian will be 33 in a few months and will be out of contract at Real Madrid by the end of next season.
It is therefore time for the club to look to the future. However, given Real Madrid’s financial difficulties due to the pandemic and stadium renovations, spending money on a new left-back at a time when other positions need urgent strengthening would not be the ideal case.
That said, Real Madrid to wait a year or two before making a move to bring Theo Hernandez back would make a lot of sense. Still a few more seasons in Milan as the top pick would only help him to continue his development while Los Blancos can count on Marcelo as cover for Mendy for another year until his contract expires or maybe even a year after that.
Theo this season has surpassed Ferland Mendy in attacking power and if he continues on the same trajectory he should only improve after a few years which makes him ready to return to the Bernabeu and claim the job. of holder. at the left-back, a place that was never within his reach during his first visit to the club.