Premier League returnee Pablo Hernandez on the late-career gift Leeds United have given him
He played in the top flight for two seasons. After scoring five goals and creating 15 others, he moved to Qatari side Al-Arabi who loaned him to Al-Nasr Dubai, Rayo Vallecano and then Leeds.
He was 31 when he first arrived at Elland Road, in a deal that had a view to a permanent transfer, and there was no guarantee of top flight football. It was always the dream, though.
"I came here four years ago with one target, getting back to the Premier League," he said this week at Thorp Arch during Leeds' pre-season preparations for their first Premier League season since 2004.
Hernandez helped make the dream come true, scoring and making vital goals in a post-Covid suspension Championship run-in, despite nursing a recently injured hamstring. His late winner at Swansea was one for the ages and sparked celebrations worthy of any historic Leeds United moment.
And now he's just a fortnight from something he considers a blessing - another crack at England's biggest clubs.
"For me this is maybe my 16th, 17th pre-season in professional football but I have the same motivation as always," he said.
"I'm excited to start the new season in the Premier League in two weeks. We've had two months to rest this year but this is the situation. Everyone is just excited to start the season.
"For me at 35 years old this is a present for me, at the end of my career to play again in the Premier League is amazing for me, even more that I can do it with this club, Leeds United. I've achieved this and now I have the opportunity to play in maybe the best league in the world. I'm excited to play in this league again and try to help my team-mates with my experience in the past and try to do a good job."
Much of the talk this summer around Leeds United transfers, when it comes to the areas in which they need to strengthen, has centred on cover for Hernandez. He cannot go on forever, after all. But those late 2019/20 performances and his ability to influence games dramatically suggests there is life in the legs yet and lots of it.
Leeds managed his fitness expertly to get him and their promotion bid over the line, but he is always namechecked among the fittest athletes at the club and his professionalism has kept him involved in the sport after many peers have had to retire.
As long as the legs still have it, he says he'll keep going. And with two years left on his contract, Hernandez can focus entirely on being the gift that keeps on giving to Leeds, in the Premier League.
"I felt good after the break, when we played the last nine games," he said.
"After the injury we knew we couldn't take a lot of risks if I played a lot of minutes. For that reason we decided to manage it so I didn't play all the 90 minutes. When I played 45 or 30 even I felt good, I could score and make assists. It was more important that we achieved the goal and finished as champions. It was very special for me at 35. I try to keep this level and try to feel happy when I play.
"I always say the same, if I feel good in the fitness aspect and I'm happy on the pitch, I'll continue playing. I have two more years on contract and I'll try to play for two years for this amazing club."