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Scouting Atletico Madrid's Rising Star Lucas Hernandez

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2016

Atletico Madrid's French defender Lucas Hernandez (C) vies with Reus Deportivo's forward David Haro (R) as Reus Deportivo's midfielder Ramon Folch (L) falls down during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) football match Club Atletico de Madrid VS CF Reus Deportivo at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on December 17, 2015.   AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO / AFP / JAVIER SORIANO        (Photo credit should read JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)
JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images

Manager Diego Simeone knew Lucas Hernandez would be a useful player for Atletico Madrid, even back in 2013. That was the first time he called him up to the senior squad for a clash with Villarreal in November.

It was before Hernandez had even played a single game for the Atletico B team.

Although the centre-back did not feature in that game for the main squad, he only had to wait a few more months for his B debut, with it eventually coming in April 2014.

Hernandez played three more times for Atletico B after that, before penning a new deal in the summer. That was later extended to June 2019 after he was promoted to the first-team squad in August 2015.

It was back towards the end of 2014 when he finally got to taste action under Simeone for the first time, playing in a 3-0 Copa del Rey win over CE L’Hospitalet, at 18 years old.

The game at La Feixa Llarga was a standard away victory, not notable for much other than Lucas’ debut, playing alongside Jose Maria Gimenez, one of the best young centre-backs in Europe.

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 06:  Sergi Enrich of SD Eibar goes for a high ball against Lucas Hernandez of Club Atletico de Madrid during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and SD Eibar at Vicente Calderon Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Madrid,
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The Uruguayan is a footballing reference point for Hernandez, and the latter said as much in a press conference after his contract was renewed.

Per Goal (in Spanish), Hernandez stated: "For me, Gimenez is a reference point because he arrived here at 18, the truth is he had a year hardly playing, and now he's been progressing in each training session and is a starter for Atletico Madrid, alongside Godin, who's one of the best in the world."

Lucas may be recognisable for some as he’s the son of Jean-Francois Hernandez, following in his father's footsteps as a central defender.

Jean-Francois played for Toulouse, Sochaux and Marseille in France, before moving to Spain and featuring for Compostela, Rayo Vallecano and Atletico Madrid.

"I always played football at home with my father and brother," Lucas told Atletico Madrid's official website (link in Spanish).

The 20-year-old is French, despite his Spanish-sounding name, and arrived at Atletico as a 12-year-old in 2007.

Physically strong, Hernandez has dominated at youth level, leading to him being called the "Jefazo," or big boss.

BURGO DE OSMA, SPAIN - JULY 25:  Raul Garcia (L) of Club Atletico de Madrid celebrates after Lucas Hernandez scored Atletico's opening goal during the Jesus Gil y Gil Memorial pre-season friendly match between Numancia and Club Atletico de Madrid at the C
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That's reported by Chema G Fuente in Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo, who also says he's "strong, tall, fast, diligent, with character and left-footed, a quality which is in demand for players in his position."

All those descriptors are accurate, though "versatile" should be added to the list. Although he's a centre-back, he can also be used at left-back, and it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine him doing a job in defensive midfield if necessary.

The power and aggression Lucas has is reminiscent of the man he looks up to, Gimenez, who is a good example for him to follow if he wants to make good on his undoubted potential.

One of Lucas' biggest strengths is bringing the ball out from the back, something valued in Spain, and he is usually both careful and wise in his distribution of it.

Because of his aerial ability, he's also a threat from set pieces, and Simeone can rely on him to clear his lines at the back if Atletico are being aerially bombarded.

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Bleacher Report spoke to ESPN's Atletico Madrid writer Joseph Walker, a regular at the Vicente Calderon, who has kept a close eye on the defender's progress.

He said: "Lucas is a strong, steady defender who has shown great versatility in his short Atletico career to date, looking at home both at left-back and in his natural position of centre-back.

"His standout performance to date for Los Rojiblancos came against the eternal rival, Real Madrid, in a 2-0 Copa del Rey victory last season in which he kept the world's most expensive player, Gareth Bale, as quiet as a mouse.

"In terms of strengths, he is cool on the ball, strong and rarely shirks a tackle. That youthful exuberance can also be his downfall as it can result in him diving into tackles, but he has time on his side and there are few better defenders to learn from than Diego Godin.

GETAFE, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 14:  Manager Diego Simeone of Club Atletico de Madrid takes his place at the bench before the start of during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Club Atletico de Madrid at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on February 14, 2016 in Getafe
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"The fact Diego Simeone refused to allow the Frenchman to leave on loan this campaign is testament to how highly he rates him and under the Argentine's stewardship there's no reason he cannot make it at the Calderon."

As Walker notes, diving into tackles could be a problem, especially for a team as relentlessly physical as Atletico. It’s definitely an area he should work on.

Hernandez also impressed at left-back against Eibar recently, as Atletico’s defence was ravaged by injury and suspension.

The youngster is taking things calmly, and given his numerous assets, it would be no surprise to see Simeone continue to turn to him in the months ahead.

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