Lucas Hernandez: the instant world champion was the defeat of Spain and the gain of France | France
This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2020 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organizations from the 24 qualifying countries. theguardian.com features previews from two countries each day as the tournament kicks off on June 11th.
Lucas Hernandez has a World Cup winner’s medal for France, but could play for Spain without a phone call from Didier Deschamps three months before this 2018 tournament in Russia and a conversation with his AtlÃ©tico Madrid teammate Antoine Griezmann.
Griezmann admitted ‘he pressured him and made him say yes’ and also revealed that then Spain coach Julen Lopetegui approached the full-back and felt the pitch.
Hernandez had played for all of France’s youth teams from the Under-16s to the Under-21s, but it was the turning point he expected. âI felt for a long time more Spanish than French, he explains, because Spain gave me everything personally and professionally. I even speak the language better. Yet my country remains France. When I received this call from the coach, I did not hesitate, not even for a second, before telling him that I was ready to give everything for this jersey. The next thing he knew, he was a World Cup winner at 22. Hernandez started all seven games at left-back in Russia and even got two assists, one for Benjamin Pavard against Argentina in the round of 16, another for Kylian MbappÃ© against Croatia in the final – and life didn’t would never be the same again.
Born in Marseille, where his father Jean-FranÃ§ois, an aggressive left-handed central defender, played between 1995 and 1998, he grew up in Spain, where his father ended his career before leaving home overnight and disappearing in the tunes riddled with debt. . Lucas would now share his world with his mother, Laurence, maternal grandparents and younger brother, Theo, who played for AtlÃ©tico youth and reserves, then moved to Real Madrid and Milan.
âIt was beautiful but difficult times. I remember my mom working overtime to feed us, take us to soccer games and practiceâ¦ Theo and I owe her everything, âsays Hernandez. “The only way to get over that and give it something back was to fight and keep fighting and try to make our dreams come true.”
Football had been his engine and AtlÃ©tico scouts spotted him at the age of 11 at Rayo Majadahonda, a small suburban team west of Madrid. The philosophy and spirit of AtlÃ©tico, and later Diego Simeone, influenced his style of play and his character.
âI like to defend, compete, be aggressive on the pitch. I dig head-to-head, tackles and recoveries, âexplains Hernandez. “The way AtlÃ©tico played – defending well to attacking well, never the other way around – suited me and was a lot like France’s approach when I arrived. In fact, Deschamps and Simeone have a lot in common and a The only thing that matters to them mainly: winning, so I didn’t feel disoriented and I was able to adapt quickly.
Although a natural central defender, which can also come from his father’s DNA, he made his breakthrough with AtlÃ©tico and France as a powerful, explosive and uncompromising left-back. âI’m used to playing on the left now but I can play in both positions, so I have no problem switching between roles, even in the same game. My brother is a pure left-back and much stronger than me offensively. But I’m a better defender, no contest! As Griezmann described when he joined the team just before the last World Cup: âHe’s my soldier.
When Hernandez left AtlÃ©tico for Bayern Munich in 2019, “never had an AtlÃ©tico player won a World Cup before, so I felt pretty proud”, he wanted to challenge himself and ” put myself in danger “in his own words. But he first had to undergo two operations (right knee ligaments and right ankle) and suffered a few other injuries, and ultimately played only a minor role in the last eight League mini-tournaments. of the champions, barely six- minute cameo in the 8-2 demolition of Barcelona.
“Last season Alphonso Davies was the best left-back in the world, so no hard feelings, but I’ve always been part of the adventure.” After asking for the No.21 shirt, his usual with France but which no one had dared to wear since Philipp Lahm retired in 2017, he had to adapt to a possession team, playing attacking football and defending more high, the complete opposite of AtlÃ©tico. âSo I had to improve my passing game,â he admits.
After 18 years in Spain, he also had to learn a new way of life. “I miss the local jamon and the excellent partnership we have formed with [fellow countrymen] To M [Lemar] and Antoine [Griezmann]. “But he teamed up with three French Bayern players at Pavard, Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso, and recreated the same backdrops for relaxing on a day off, strolling in the woods or fishing.
âI have been fishing since I was a child and my father and grandfather taught me. I love it and found Heaven here. I even discovered amazing spots rich in pike, zander and trout, the local specialty. “However he admits:” My musical and culinary tastes, with the exception of the cheese which must be French, are very Spanish. My wife, Amelia, is Spanish and my son, Martin, was born in Madrid, two weeks after the World Cup. When I am in Spain, I feel Spanish. But when I’m in France, I feel French.
And when he’s in Germany he’s now a Bayern player, another World Cup winner has been added to the cast. Not ordinary, however: his transfer of 80 million euros is the most expensive in the history of the club. Still only 25 years old, that already seems like money well spent.
Patrick Urbini writes for The team.
Follow him on twitter @purbini.
For a tactical guide to France click here.