At this juncture in a season which is dying a lingering death, there is little left for Pablo Hernandez to prove.
With his 33rd birthday arriving next month, there is nothing more for Leeds United to learn about him either. “Pablo is Pablo,” as a former team-mate of his once said, and the midfielder has life in him yet.
How many more years of Championship football his body can take is a matter for consideration but Leeds have gained as much from Hernandez as they have from most of their players since this season began in August. The assists are there and sporadic goals too, combined with an attitude which shone through in the second half of Leeds’ flaky defeat to Wolves on Wednesday.
Hernandez’s contractual situation, nonetheless, is unresolved and the Championship fixture list leaves him 10 games away from the end of his deal. Leeds have not moved to signal any intention to release him but have not made a formal offer of an extension either and head coach Paul Heckingbottom - describing Hernandez today as a “positive light for us” - did not commit to the question of where he wants the Spaniard to stay.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s game at Reading, Heckingbottom said he and the club were prioritising Hernandez’s return to full fitness, despite the reality of a campaign which no longer offers much prospect of play-off qualification.
Hernandez’s return as a substitute against Wolves followed a two-game absence through injury and he could start away at Reading this weekend as an embattled Leeds squad attempt to dig out their second win since Boxing Day.
Heckingbottom said: “Pablo has been a really positive light for us, a really positive light in the games we’ve had him fit and available for.
“In the short term the priority is everyone helping to keep him fit and making sure we can get as many minutes from him as possible. With the season the way it is and Pablo’s contract situation, we want to make sure we get it right one way or the other. We want to give Pablo every opportunity to perform for us.
“The priority is keeping him on the pitch and then we see what happens after that.”
Hernandez’s wife is expecting a baby, one reason why the family could head home to Spain this summer, but the former Valencia and Swansea City player recently stressed his desire to secure another contract with Leeds, saying: “I’m very happy here. I feel the fans and my teammates, all the people, would like it if I stay here. But it depends not only on me.”