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Theo Hernández to Real Madrid: It’s complicated

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Reports surfaced that Theo Hernández is a top target for Real Madrid this summer after impressing on loan at Alavés this season

Deportivo Alaves v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Theo Hernandez is going to be, if he is not already, a world class left back. The 19-year-old was sent out on loan to Alavés this season by Diego Simeone so he would not be forced to sit on the bench behind Filipe Luis all season, and under Mauricio Pellegrino up north he has excelled. Alavés, thanks in large part to his performances, have coasted to mid-table security and to a first-ever Copa del Rey final to boot.

And so, rumours have festered for some time about all the glamorous sides coming after Theo, who’s been likened to Gareth Bale. The whispers came to a head (sort of) on Tuesday morning, when Marca reported that he was the top target at...Real Madrid. He even got his own front page, and Marca even sent a reporter to get Theo’s reaction to the front page.

Simeone has not said explicitly said he wants the player in his squad next season, but this seems to be a clear indication that he does:

There is a gentleman’s agreement between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid which stipulates that one side is supposed to contact the other before trying to start a deal, and Atlético are unhappy that Real Madrid approached Theo’s agent first. The player, meanwhile, remains unhappy that he was forced to play last season with Atlético B in the third division. He feels he is better than that.

(He would be right.)

The deal is possible, as Madrid are resolute in lining up Marcelo’s understudy/replacement, even if Theo is just one name on Zinedine Zidane’s list - which also has been mooted to include Jose Gaya from Valencia and Benjamin Mendy of Monaco. But a pissed-off Atlético will create hurdles to any transfer, which could include making Madrid pay a large tax on top of the 24 million euro buyout clause or kickstarting renewal talks when Theo returns from loan.

If Simeone can convince the player that the project next year is worth sticking around for, together they might repel Madrid’s advances. A transfer to the Bernabéu would not ensure Theo plays immediately - just as a move back to Atlético wouldn't. However, if he really is set on leaving, there are few (maybe even none) clubs in the world that can match Real Madrid for stature. Whatever the case, though, this seems to be more than the standard derby week destabilization from the Madrid press, and we’ll wait and see what else develops.