On Sky Sports every now and again, you can watch a re-run of the League Cup final from 2012/2013 when Swansea City beat Bradford 5-0, and you will see a Spanish midfielder produce one of the best performances in such a final at Wembley over recent times.
Pablo Hernandez joined Swansea during a time that the Welsh club had made themselves fully known in the Premier League, and along with the likes of Michu, Jonathan de Guzman and Lloyd Dyer – Hernandez was playing a massive part in their success.
But, despite his rise in English football and growing reputation, it was a long time before that which saw Hernandez become one of the most interesting and underrated footballers Spain has produced.
Beginning his career with Valencia, Hernandez quickly established himself at the Mestalla and became part of a successful side which would often push the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid for the Spanish title.
Hernandez quickly became one of Spanish football’s most consistent and exciting playmakers and his quality earned him a call up the Spanish national side, where he would go on to help them finish third the Confederations Cup in 2009.
Despite Hernandez’s solid performances, the attacking midfielder failed to gain much more recognition for Spain – having come through to senior football at the same time of the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and former Los Che players Ruben Baraja and Juan Mata.
Keen to further his reputation, Hernandez made the move to the Premier League and his success continued with Swansea, playing an important part in that aforementioned League Cup run, helping them gain qualification to the Europa League.
A strange and somewhat spontaneous move though would see Hernandez spend four years away from England with spells at Al-Arabi, Al-Nasr and Rayo Vallecano.
It was in 2016 that the midfielder then decided to take up an offer from Leeds to move back to English football, and from that moment on – Hernandez has become one of, if not the – key figure at Leeds.
A much underrated part of the side at Elland Road saw Hernandez win the club’s Player of the Year for the previous two seasons, and his form and contribution this term could see him win that accolade for a third consecutive season this term.
Leeds are currently on an improved run of form after struggling over the start of 2020. Marcelo Bielsa’s side sit second in the Championship table, pushing league leaders West Bromwich Albion for the title – but they arguably would have dropped into the play-off places if Hernandez’ form of late had not been available.
The Spaniard has two goals, two assists and one man of the match performance in his last three games for Leeds – making him their most consistent and important player at the moment.
It has always been a curiosity though, why the 34-year-old has stayed so loyal to Leeds – when his ability and experience could clearly have seen him play at a higher level for a lot longer in his career.
Leeds are fortunate – to have a player, who has Champions League, Spanish national team and Premier League experience in their ranks. – something which is rare and hard to find.
One has to think there have been offers from Premier League sides over the years for the services of Hernandez, but the midfielder has proven his loyalty and commitment to the cause at Elland Road.
Now, with the season entering the final few months – it is surely time for Leeds to pay him back.
Fail to gain promotion this season, Hernandez may opt to leave the club in the summer – but one thing is for sure, no matter how unheralded he is – the Castellon born magician has been one of the club’s most iconic heroes of the modern day.