Pablo Hernandez will be feeling the heat this season. The experienced former Valencia and Swansea City player was a fixture in the attacking midfield role for Leeds United under previous manager Garry Monk. However, like most of the team, he faded down the stretch of the season, appearing to suffer from a lack of form during the slide down the table that occurred at the end of last season.
Monk brought Hernandez to Leeds last summer, as he previously had worked with Hernandez at Swansea. However, Monk is now at Middlesbrough, and Hernandez does not have the same history with the new Head Coach Thomas Christiansen as he did with Monk. And while Hernandez might get the starting nod against Bolton Wanderers today, he is playing on borrowed time.
The longest transfer saga during the summer transfer window for Leeds was the recruitment of Spaniard Samuel Saiz from SD Huesca. The 26 year-old former Real Madrid youth product had been rumored to be on the move from Segunda Division Huesca to SD Eibar when Leeds hijacked the deal at the last minute to bring the attacking midfielder/forward to Elland Road. The deal was reportedly complex enough, as Atlético Madrid still held 50% of his rights, that it even took two days after he had a medical at Elland Road to confirm the deal. The fee was officially “undisclosed” but rumored to be approximately £3 million.
Samuel Saiz was a force for SD Huesca last season, scoring 12 goals, used mainly as an attacking midfielder. And while he has spent time playing on the wing, with Gianni Aloski, another summer signing, Kemar Roofe, Hadi Sacko, and Stuart Dallas all claiming spots on the wings, Saiz looks to be used mainly in the same #10 role that Hernandez played in last year in the same 4-2-3-1 that Leeds used under Monk.
Another signing that has flown under the radar somewhat is that of the Poland international Mateusz Klich from FC Twente. While a minor injury kept him out of a lot of the preseason training, he is another option for Christiansen to use as an attacking midfielder. While he’s been projected to eventually slot into the central midfield, he has played in a more forward role before, and can be relied on to create and distribute the ball as well.
Pablo Hernandez is 32 years old, and while he brings experience and technical ability to the pitch, Leeds have brought in Saiz and Klich to challenge for spots. Hernandez is likely looking over his shoulder to see if anyone of the younger, newer options have caught him yet. Footballers rarely get better after age 30, and it seems the club have brought in younger options to either rotate with Hernandez or replace him. Saiz was not brought in to sit on the bench and come in after 60 minutes of play. Hernandez will have to raise his game or be forced into a rotation or super-sub role. Either way, the attacking midfield options at Leeds just got a whole lot better this summer. Perhaps we’ll see what all of the fuss was about this summer later today as the Whites take on Bolton in the opening game of the year.