Thirty years in management, so much of it at elite level, and still Marcelo Bielsa sees a rarity in Pablo Hernandez. “A complete player from every point of view” was how Bielsa put it after the winger’s creative edge inspired Leeds United’s 3-0 win at Norwich City on Saturday.
Bielsa found himself talking about Hernan Crespo last week, a reminder of the standard of footballer he has coached in the past, but two months spent working with Hernandez has exposed him to a cultured talent. United’s head coach almost laughed at the suggestion that he could find ways to improve the 33-year-old.
“I think he can make me a better head coach,” Bielsa said, “because I see solutions in the decisions he is taking.”
Hernandez’s finesse shines through regularly, as it did at Norwich with the wonderful pass which created the first goal and the curling finish which claimed the third, but it is the Spaniard’s influence from a wide position that most impresses Bielsa.
The former Argentina boss can think of only a handful of wingers who exerted the same level of control.
“I only saw this a very few times during my career,” Bielsa said. “Maybe I saw this in players who played in different positions, in the middle of the pitch, but to have such an influence when you play on the side is not usual.
“His style is something that wakens in the rival the desire to neutralise him because he always intervenes, making actions more fluid. He has an influence, he intervenes in very small spaces and he makes the play of his team-mates a lot easier. He really is a player that improves his team-mates.
“He gives solutions to actions that are very complicated and he puts his team-mates in better situations. He’s a real silent leader. He always takes responsibility for difficult things and he makes it easier for his team-mates to play. He does all of this without speaking, without saying a word.”
Hernandez is Leeds’ oldest player, one of only two members of Bielsa’s 18 on Saturday who were over the age of 30, but the suspicion that his age might limit his involvement under Bielsa has been unfounded so far.
Norwich was his fifth start of the season, though it ended after 11 minutes from time when Hernandez walked off showing apparent pain in one leg. Bielsa said he was not sure if the problem was significant. “I couldn’t tell you,” he said.
“It’s obvious that Hernandez has been very important for our team. He’s the player who has the best regularity and he’s the player with the biggest influence in the control of the games. He’s very intelligent.
“He’s a complete player from every point of view and there’s a difference between experience and decisions. You have players with a lot of experience but a lack of lucidity when it comes to making decisions. Pablo reads the needs of the team and he gives solutions to all the problems of the team, in each sector of the field.”
Leeds’ win at Carrow Road edged them into the final week of the transfer window, with the EFL’s deadline for loan deals set to pass this Friday.
United are hopeful of making one more signing before the window closes and are continuing to listen to offers for Caleb Ekuban, Eunan O’Kane and Vurnon Anita. League One Charlton Athletic remain interested in O’Kane.
Asked about potential incomings, Bielsa said: “I wouldn’t tell you because I’m not sure of anything in this moment.”