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Why Leeds United will never replace the huge impact Pablo Hernandez had on Elland Road

Leeds United fans have spent years crying out for a marquee transfer to fill the number 10 role, but it's impossible to replace Pablo Hernandez

Pablo Hernandez was a footballing wizard who played with the ball on a string. Show him a single blade of grass and he’d find enough space to hurt you.

Each summer since his departure, it’s the same old song. Leeds fans cry out for a creative midfielder, declaring ‘We never replaced Pablo’. While that’s still true, Leeds will never be able to replace Pablo.

Hernandez spent five glorious years at Elland Road, flourishing under Marcelo Bielsa as Leeds United secured a long-awaited return to the promised land of the Premier League.

There’s a tendency among Leeds fans, and undoubtedly it’s owing to years of hurt and torment, to hold on to special moments and special people for dear life.

 

Hernandez winning over the fans

When he arrived in August 2016, the Whites had just recorded their customary mid-table finish, much to the displeasure of the 22,000 exasperated and weary souls watching at Elland Road.

El Loco may have delivery capacity crowds with a swift culture shock and a swashbuckling brand of football, but El Mago helped set the wheels in motion.

Less than 12 months after watching Souleymane Doukara - who admittedly did score that unforgettable goal against Nottingham Forest - play for Steve Evans, the ‘little fat man’ Joey Barton called a ‘weeble’, Leeds fans were reminded that it’s okay to have nice things.

All of a sudden, Whites fans were served a much more palatable offering in the form of (f*ck) Gary Monk overseeing Hernandez feeding free-scoring Chris Wood as Leeds threatened promotion.

Simon Grayson’s promotion aside, it was the first green shoots of hope to come from a dark period that suggested Leeds could claw their way back toward the top.

Hernandez’s sumptuous opener in a 2-0 away win against Cardiff City was a sign of things to come. Just as he did on that day, the former Spanish international had a habit of finding space and whipping the ball into the corner.

He did it time and time again. Fantastic free-kicks against Norwich and Burton, a trio of stunning strikes against Reading, screamers against Bristol City, Leicester, West Brom and others.

 

Hernandez's impact on Elland Road

Pablo Hernandez

Across four seasons in the Championship, Hernandez scored 36 goals, provided 39 assists and created 386 goalscoring chances. That’s right, 386 potential assists.

In 2018, Hernandez topped the charts with 116 chances created, which was 19 more than the division's next-best creator, Sheffield United’s Oliver Norwood.

There are numerous examples of players who produce similar numbers, such as Crysencio Summerville, who created 112 just last season.

But more than just the metrics (shut up, Jesse), Pablo elevated those around him, made Leeds a threat again and was the sort of player who, like Raphinha, brought the crowd to their feet every time he touched the ball.

The best part of being a football fan is experiencing moments and feelings that you just can’t manufacture. Sometimes it's hard to find the words to capture a feeling, but any Leeds fan knows the Pablo feeling.

Moments like the electric atmosphere at Elland Road when he scored the most outrageous of goals with 17 seconds on the clock against West Brom.

Or that goal against Swansea in deepest, darkest lockdown. In my case, witnessed during a socially distanced watch party that ended in someone launching lager all over a £1,000 MacBook.

The joy of Pablo Hernandez, and of course, Marcelo Bielsa, crossing paths with Leeds when they did, was just thrillingly irreplaceable.

You can never replace those memories and you can never replace Pablo Hernandez.

READ MORE: Transfer news: Roma credited with surprise interest in Sheffield United midfielder

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