When Pablo Hernandez finally departs Leeds, he will leave behind him one of the biggest legacies that has been left at Elland Road in the last decade.
The Spaniard may now be in the twilight of his career and struggling to have a big impact on the pitch, but he is still a magician, a player capable of unlocking even the sternest of defences.
When he signed for the club permanently in January 2017, he became part of a new age for Leeds, one led by Andrea Radrizzani.
Since then, the duo have helped to lead a remarkable charge towards Premier League football. Radrizzani’s investment has been game-changing behind the scenes but on the field, Hernandez has been remarkable.
He has won the club’s Player of the Year award three years in a row and was even named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year for 2018/19. He is a stalwart of Elland Road and during his time in Yorkshire, has contributed 36 goals and 41 assists.
It’s a splendid record and it would take quite something for a fellow Leeds player to replicate those numbers. Who the Whites look to replace him with in the coming years will be interesting to see.
They have a number of young players coming through in attacking areas, from Joe Gelhardt and Sam Greenwood to Jack Jenkins. However, the player we want to focus on is Charlie Allen, someone we believe is already showing shades of Hernandez.
The 17-year-old penned permanent terms over the summer and after playing four times for Linfield’s senior side, he has made steady strides in the Leeds academy.
Like Hernandez, he possesses the ability to play in attacking midfield and also on the right-hand side. He has scored once this term but has provided two assists for his teammates, showing glimpses of vibrant creativity.
Allen is incredibly mature for his age and after becoming Linfield’s youngest ever player at 15 years and five months, he has already been on the scene for a while. Though, he has more than just creativity in his locker.
The teenager was named on The Guardian’s Next Gen list for 2020, where they wrote the following: “[Allen is] two-footed, blessed with adhesive close control, impressive vision, passing range and finishing ability.”
That sounds remarkably similar to Hernandez, someone who glides across the turf and passes opponents with ease.
Importantly, he’s not been told to simplify his game either. Irish FA Elite Performance Director Jim Magilton said, when Allen signed: “He has always had that wonderful ability to go past people which is a dying art. We didn’t want to coach that out of him and it was an insistence of mine to give him the confidence to keep playing that way.”
Having already played multiple times at senior level albeit not at Leeds, he is likely to be further ahead in his development than a fair few players in the Leeds academy.
However, before he earns his chance in the Leeds first team, he will need to prove himself at U23 level. He has made just the two Premier League 2 appearances this term so that will be an area he looks to improve upon in the future.
If he can do that, Marcelo Bielsa may well have a ready-made Hernandez heir right in front of him. After all, the Northern Irishman has very similar qualities.