With Pablo Hernandez’s career at Leeds United winding down, Marcelo Bielsa may be on the look-out for someone to fill that potential void sooner rather than later.
The veteran Spaniard, who will turn 36 in a couple of months, has fallen out of favour at Elland Road this season, playing just 313 minutes of Premier League football.
Whether it’s his age, or even suggestions that both he and the manager have had a falling out, the writing is very much on the wall for Hernandez’s time in Yorkshire.
But with reports in recent days linking the Whites with a move for Real Madrid’s Lucas Vazquez, Bielsa could well find his perfect successor to Hernandez quicker than he expected.
Vazquez is predominantly a right-winger, but he appears to have all the tools in his lock for Bielsa to work his coaching magic and turn him into a number ten or someone to play just off the striker – just like Hernandez has done in recent seasons.
This season, the Madrid flier has managed five assists in all competitions, including a couple of big contributions in big games against the likes of Valencia and Celta Vigo.
Speaking last month, Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane raved about his match-winning performance against Vigo, saying: “What he’s doing right now doesn’t surprise us. Not only do I like him, we all like him because he is always on the job and reliable. He always gives everything on the pitch and we appreciate that. I congratulate him.”
Vazquez is a more creative force than someone with the directness and willingness to let fly like a Raphinha-type, and it’s exactly why he seems to be more in the mould of a Hernandez.
The 29-year-old has averaged a very impressive 1.7 key passes per game in La Liga, which would actually rank him joint-second in the entire Leeds squad. And given his natural instincts as a winger, he’s also a prolific dribbler, making 1.4 per game at a superb success rate of 71%.
To put that into context, Raphinha makes slightly less per game at 1.6, but with far less success (54%). Hernandez’s best season in terms of dribbling at Leeds meanwhile saw him manage 1.8 per game in his first season at Elland Road.
Just like Hernandez, the 5 foot 8 Vazquez is small in stature, but has got all the footwork and trickery to make him a real danger for the opposition. If Orta can get this deal over the line, Bielsa could very well land Leeds’ next Spanish magician.
Like how Hernandez was converted from a flying right winger into a number ten, Bielsa could do the same with Vazquez. It’s all on Victor Orta to snap him up on a free transfer this summer.