Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa has been told to look no further than his own country when searching for Pablo Hernandez’s replacement.
The Spaniard once again holds the key to Leeds’ push for promotion as United look to end their 16-year Premier League absence. Leeds top the table by a point from West Brom with Brentford a further five back, with six games left.
By despite being one of the fittest players at the club, Leeds know Hernandez cannot last forever. Since football’s resumption, he has featured in two games, both off the bench.
Leeds handed Hernandez a new two-and-a-half-year deal back in November, taking him beyond 37.
Explaining the move at the time, Bielsa said: “I think the extension is deserved. He has a lot of impact on the team, every supporter recognises him. Everybody values him. He is respected by his teammates. I think the same.”
When asked if Hernandez would be able to make the same impact in the Premier League were Leeds to gain promotion, Bielsa continued: “I don’t like to imagine something which hasn’t happened yet. I can tell you, though, if Pablo had to play in the Premier League, I think he can do it without problems.”
Should Leeds secure promotion, they will still hope to rely on Hernandez’s brilliance in the top flight. However, they will also be aware that he can’t play on forever.
Now Noel Whelan has earmarked the man he sees as his perfect long-term replacement. The former Whites striker, speaking to Football Insider, says Norwich star Emiliano Buendia has all the attributes of Hernandez.
“He could be the man to replace Pablo long-term but I’m sure [director of football, Victor] Orta will be looking at many options.
“There will be a number of players considered for that number 10 position to give Pablo the help he needs to get through a season.
“He is going to need help. He will not be able to play every game at the top level.
“Buendia has done very well at Norwich.
“It is a crucial position, number 10, whoever plays there is your Diego Maradona. They have to be creative, score goals, take set pieces – he is your ace in the pack.
“In the Premier League you need a real magician in there. Someone like Pablo but a bit younger.”
Buendia has impressed this season despite Norwich’s struggles and has also been mentioned as a target for Liverpool.
Luton boss offers Pablo Hernandez apology
The dispute occurred at full time of Tuesday night’s fixture at Elland Road that ended 1-1 between the Championship’s top and bottom clubs.
At the full-time whistle, Hernandez and Jones exchanged some heated words. Jones, however, was quick to accept the blame when asked about it later.
Jones said: “My fault. We had a little bit of an argument in his native tongue and I just wanted to show him I could speak Spanish.
“But I apologise, it was me that caused the problem, I probably said something that I shouldn’t have said, and I wanted to make sure I spoke to him, as it’s my fault.
“So nothing in it really, as I have the utmost respect for this Leeds team, they’re the best team (in this league), I know people here, I’ve worked with people who have played in the side, so it was a great point.
“He was having a moan that we defended so much and frustrated them. Obviously they want teams to come out and have a go at them here so they can murder them, but we’re not that side.
“It’s one of those things, but nothing bad. We spoke, I got to practice my Spanish and Pablo got his apology.
“I said ‘hey, we’re fighting for our lives here’ and I was a bit vociferous in that. I just wanted to make sure that he knew that.
“We’re not going to come here and be open, so that was all and I’ve been called worse. I’ve also called people worse every day, so there’s no problem.”