Theo Hernandez is currently out of action due to COVID, but Miguel Agyei believes the Milan defender proved to be the best left-back in the world during the Nations League.
A wise footballer named Paolo Maldini once said: “It is very hard to find a good defender who is strong and good with the ball. Very hard.”
In the summer of 2019, the Italian legend made the bold move to meet with French defender Theo Hernadez in Ibiza to convince him to join Milan.
Maldini’s plan worked and on July 7, Hernandez completed his move from Real Madrid for circa €20m. In his two years with Los Blancos, he managed to be a part of their Champions League-winning team who defeated Liverpool in 2017-18. Despite quality performances, he could not compete with first-team left-back Marcelo.
Hernadez is only 24 years old. Born in Marseille, France, a year after his brother Lucas Hernandez who currently plays for Bayern Munich, the Frenchman can be described as a pacey left-back with good dribbling skills and a rocket left foot. Essentially, he has those qualities that Maldini was looking for in his ideal left-back.
Theo was able to show his skills from the very first campaign at San Siro. The Frenchman made his debut in the Milan derby, scored his first goal against Genoa in stoppage time to seal the win for his team, and even ended up in the Serie A Team of The Season for the 2019-20 campaign. His stats for that year included 33 appearances six goals and three assists.
His second campaign was a bit different, though, as he had struggled defensively in his debut season in Milan. Theo worked hard and learned under the wings of the wise Maldini, Stefano Pioli and the Rossoneri’s technical staff.
The former Real Madrid man managed to clean up some of the mistakes, becoming a complete full-back. He has found his feet in the defensive half and developed the ability to make crunching and effective tackles to prevent dangerous situations when an opposing team is in Milan’s box. He was still able to finish the 2020-21 campaign with 33 appearances, seven goals and five assists. Even with another pleasant season under his belt, he was not included in the France squad for UEFA Euro 2020. Once again, Theo put his head down, kept training hard, awaiting the call from Les Blues. Everybody knew it was only a matter of time.
Theo Hernandez has played seven matches scoring one goal and providing three assists at a club level so far this season. Finally, that was enough for him to emerge and earn a well-deserved call-up to the national team. Deschamps included him in the squad for the UEFA Nations League and Theo didn’t disappoint. The defender scored the winner in stoppage time in a thrilling semi-final against Belgium at the Allianz Stadium. A few days later, in front of the Stadio Meazza crowd, he set up Kylian Mbappé for a decisive goal that allowed France to lift the cup.
But what makes Theo so special? Many defenders struggle to contain him when he sprints down the flank at full speed, often forcing his opponents to foul him. Despite being a defender, he is quite accurate when it comes to finding the net. Countless times he has scored from just outside the box, unleashing lethal rockets directly on goal. And when inside the box, he is not afraid to go for the big target as well.
The ability to push the ball up the field and put defenders behind him with his strength and dribbling quality gives Milan and France many more chances to be dangerous. If opponents don’t catch him immediately, then he becomes almost unstoppable. Due to his strength, it is often hard for defenders to push him off the ball or knock him off balance, leading to the opposition having to foul when he is on the dribble. Theo’s pace allows him the freedom to push up the field when in attack because he has the speed to track back quickly on defensive transitions.
For all these reasons, Theo Bernard Francois Hernandez is currently the best left-back in the world.
As a defender, he is crucial to his team, preventing danger by making effective tackles and clearances. In addition to that, no other left-back in Europe’s top 5 leagues contributes the same amount of goals and assists as Hernandez does and ultimately, his fitness levels are excellent, as he hardly ever misses games or gets injured. COVID, of course, it’s something different, but hopefully for Milan, the Frenchman will be able to make a quick recovery.
The Rossoneri can enjoy his performances but must be aware that a €1.5m-a-year deal is not suitable for a player who has given so much to his team in just a couple of seasons. Reports in Italy suggest the Rossoneri have made his contract extension a priority despite Theo’s deal expires in 2024. Given what happened with Gigio Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu and what looms on the horizon with Franck Kessié, they’d better start talks as soon as possible as it won’t take long before the top European clubs come to knock on the Diavoli’s door.