The summer transfer window has not opened yet but as is always the case, the endless rumours of where players will be going when it does open have become epidemic. In Spain, one player in particular has been hogging the headlines in this sense – Atletico Madrid’s Theo Hernandez, who has been on loan at Alaves for the season.
Reports suggest the left-back has already undergone a medical at Real Madrid ahead of a move across the capital, a transfer that is sure to irk even the less irascible members of the Atleti faithful. So it looks as though Barcelona are lagging behind in the tug-of-war for one of the hottest defensive talents in the world right now. But why so much hype for a player who has never played a first-team game for his parent club and who left on loan frustrated with a lack of opportunities?
Well, to start off with, he has it all. The 19-year-old is the complete modern day full-back who can attack just as well as he can defend. He seems to have been lucky in the sense that he has the defensive prowess his brother Lucas possesses, but he can combine that with an excellent ability to beat a man and whip in a cross.
Theo’s debut season as a first teamer at a senior club has been absolutely outstanding for all concerned, although Atleti might have a different opinion on that if recent reports are to be believed. Alaves sit comfortably in mid-table in their first season back in the top flight and are looking forward to a Copa del Rey final with Barca this month, something they could only have dreamt of before the start of the campaign.
The player who has represented France from U-18 to U-20 level has played a huge part in that, making 35 appearances and performing to a consistently high level throughout. He even bagged the winner in Sunday’s 1-0 win in the Basque derby against Athletic Club with an exquisite volley to net his first goal of the season.
Theo’s talent may be clear but where he will be playing next year is not. Alaves President Josean Querejeta had his say on the saga and seems unconvinced by the reports.
"We did not have any idea what was happening, we just learned via the media that he had done a medical," he said, according to ESPN. "We have a good personal and club relationship [with Real Madrid], so we were a bit surprised. We know the player belongs to Atletico Madrid so we were surprised he would do tests for another club without anyone telling us when he is with our club at the moment. We only hear rumours in the media, nobody, not Atletico, nor Madrid, nor Barcelona, have spoken to us about him.”
The problem that the youngster has is that wherever he goes, there is an experienced, top level, international left back in front of him, whether it be Filipe Luis, Marcelo or Jordi Alba. Theo has a big decision to make this summer, and he will excel in any case, but perhaps he believes the issue of game time could be solved by playing for Real Madrid’s ‘B’ team in the coming years.