Pablo Hernandez: a name adored in the city of Leeds

    LEEDS, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 13: Pablo Hernandez of Leeds United in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Swansea City at Elland Road on February 13, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

    For outsiders, football can be strange because of the way in which supporters attach themselves to players they will never have met in their day-to-day life.

    Yet come the weekend, those fans pay their good money to watch these players with a sense of admiration, joy and a measure of despair at times too. These players offer hope to the masses.

    With Pablo Hernandez, Leeds fans are treated to someone who makes the game look intricately beautiful. For what he lacks in pace or brawn, Hernandez certainly makes up for with guile and direction.

    When he is on song, the Spaniard almost swaggers across the turf, playing the game with consummate ease in which everything he does has a decisive effect on the team. He is often looked to as the man who can really make the side tick.

    In stark contrast, when the former Swansea man is below par, the team often can be too.

    A classic example of this was the recent 3-1 defeat at home to Norwich City in which he was substituted at half-time. There were suggestions he had been rushed back for an important game following a knock in the previous encounter with Rotherham when he was perhaps not ready.

    What was clear was that Leeds lacked someone with the real ability to stamp their authority on the game, someone who could really guide the team in an attacking sense that night.

    LEEDS, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 13: Leeds United’s Pablo Hernandez battles with Swansea City’s Daniel James during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Swansea City at Elland Road on February 13, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

    So much of Leeds’ attacking play comes through Hernandez because he has the vision to pierce a defence with a sumptuous pass or crafty run.

    It has to be noted that Leeds have struggled for goals in recent times, especially when looking at their tally compared to fellow promotion hopefuls West Brom and Norwich.

    However, Hernandez is the type of player who epitomises Leeds’ progression to the point where they are now challenging for automatic promotion.

    The 33-year-old has Premier League quality oozing through him because he is so tidy on the ball. He is a constant outlet for those around him in the team, demanding the ball, and instrumental in pulling the strings when he receives it.

    21st August 2018, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales; EFL Championship football, Swansea City versus Leeds United; Pablo Hernandez of Leeds United plays the ball forward (photo by Nathan Munkley/Action Plus via Getty Images)

    Since being brought to the club on loan by Garry Monk in August 2016 (before his signing in May 2017), Hernandez has started nearly 100 games for the club, scoring 20 goals.

    While this may not sound hugely spectacular, it is his absence which is felt more than any other player (with the possible exception of Kalvin Philips).

    As noted by LUFCDATA, a Twitter account compiling Leeds United statistics, Hernandez created 10 chances during the 2-1 win over Bolton on Saturday. Individually, he created four more chances than The Trotters did as a whole.

    Such impact is what he is all about. He is the brains of the team with the nous to cut through defensive resilience. Often opponents come to Elland Road content to sit behind the ball and frustrate the home crowd. Hernandez is exactly the type of player you crave in this situation.

    Pablo is a cult figure at the club, his name sung during virtually every game. A selection of comments from Leeds fans illustrates the adoration for the Spanish magician.

    Kevin Power said: “What an absolute fabulous footballer Pablo Hernandez is”, while @LeedsUnitedRyan gushed how “Pablo Hernandez is such a special footballer and Leeds are very lucky to have him, some of his play today [Versus Bolton] was just amazing”.

    Elsewhere, @LeeB_LUFC went along the lines of Leeds being an entirely different prospect without their experienced attacking head. “Scares me to think what life would be like without Pablo Hernandez,” he stated.

    One West Brom fan summed up what a lot of Leeds fans often feel is the case when saying “Watching Leeds, I can safely say that if you stop Pablo Hernández, you stop them.”

    As for the man whose opinion matters most when it comes to Leeds United, Marcelo Bielsa has previously not held back when praising the attacking midfielder.

    Speaking after the 3-0 win over Norwich at Carrow Road back in August, the Argentinian coach was quick to realise he had an unquestionably talented footballer at his disposal.

    “He is one of the best players in his position I have worked with in my career,” he said.

    BURNLEY, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: Pablo Hernandez of Leeds United celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 1-2 during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Burnley and Leeds United at Turf Moor on September 19, 2017 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

    For a manager who has virtually seen it all on a global scale, such praise is as good as it gets for an individual player.

    Pablo Hernandez is going to be an essential cog for Leeds United if they are to realistically earn promotion to the Premier League. He is the man opponents will look to target and disrupt.

    Even if Leeds were to fall short of their ambition, it is guaranteed the fans will continue to idolise their star man and sing his name for as long as he wears a white jersey.