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

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

Pablo Hernandez was a soccer wizard who played with the ball tied to a string. Show him a single blade of grass and he would find enough space to hurt it.

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

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

There is a tendency among Leeds fans, and it is no doubt due to years of heartache and torment, to cling to special moments and people with tooth and nail.

Hernandez winning over fans

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

El Loco may have had a great delivery, a quick culture shock and an adventurous style of football, but El Mago helped set things in motion.

Less than 12 months after watching Souleymane Doukara – who admittedly scored that unforgettable goal against Nottingham Forest – play for Steve Evans, the “little fat guy” Joey Barton called a “weeble”, Leeds fans have been reminded that it’s okay to have nice things.

Suddenly, Whites fans were served a much more palatable offering in the form of (fuck you) Gary Monk overseeing Hernandez feeding top scorer Chris Wood as Leeds threatened promotion.

Simon Grayson’s promotion aside, these were the first signs of hope after a dismal period that suggested Leeds could return to the top.

Hernandez’s sumptuous opening goal in a 2-0 away win against Cardiff City was a sign of things to come. Just as he did that day, the former Spain international had a habit of finding space and slamming 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 more.

Hernandez’s impact at Elland Road

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

In 2018, Hernandez topped the charts with 116 chances created, 19 more than the division’s second-highest creator, Sheffield United’s Oliver Norwood.

There are several examples of players producing similar numbers, such as Crysencio Summerville, who created 112 last season alone.

But more than just the metrics (shut up, Jesse), Pablo elevated those around him, made Leeds a threat again and was the kind 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 simply 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 incredible of goals with 17 seconds on the clock against West Brom.

Or that goal against Swansea in the deepest, darkest lockdown. In my case, witnessed during a socially distanced watch party that ended with someone throwing beer at a £1,000 MacBook.

The joy of Pablo Hernandez and, of course, Marcelo Bielsa, when they crossed paths with Leeds when they did, was simply moving and irreplaceable.

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

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