How Lucas and Theo Hernández overcame abandonment to become two of Europe’s best young defenders

How Lucas and Theo Hernández overcame abandonment to become two of Europe’s best young defenders

When Atlético Madrid informed Py Laurence that they were willing to invite both her sons Theo and Lucas to join their academy, she was certain that there was no way she could escape from football.

The world´s most popular sport played a key role in her life from the day she met the former professional player Jean-François Hernández. The Frenchman, of Spanish descent, took his first footballing steps at Toulouse, before moving to Sochaux and then Marseille.

It was there, in the southern part of France, where his wife gave birth to their two children. First came Lucas, and 15 months later followed Theo. Jean-François struggled to find a spot in Marseille’s starting line-up and decided to move to Spain. Py Laurence agreed to follow her husband on his adventure in the neighbouring country, where the centre-back plied his trade at Compostela, Atlético Madrid and Rayo Vallecano.

After hanging up his boots at the Vallecas-based side, Jean-François abandoned his family and never tried to come into contact with them again. He left his wife to raise Theo and Lucas alone, with some help from their grandparents.

The football gene was already in the blood of the two boys who were both certain that they wanted to became professionals. Despite the understandable déjà vu, their mother didn’t hold them back from their dreams.

After a season at Rayo Majadahonda, Atlético came knocking for the older son, Theo. They invited the youngster for a trial and his mother brought along Lucas as she could not afford to pay a babysitter.

Los Rojiblancos were not only impressed by Theo, but also by Lucas ,who was kicking the ball around on the sidelines during the session. Six years after Jean-François departed Atleti, both his sons signed for the club. Yet, he wasn’t there to share their excitement. “We never understood why he left, so we grew up with our mother,” Lucas said in an interview for DAZN in 2019. “She lived, worked, and gave us everything. I don’t know where [my father] is, what he’s doing, if he’s still alive or not.”

Lucas broke into the first team in 2016, while, with Filipe Luís an undisputed starter at left-back, Atleti decided to loan Theo out to Alavés. There he registered four assists and two goals in 38 games, impressing with his performances throughout the 2016/17 campaign as Alavés reached the Copa del Rey final.

Meanwhile, Lucas would reach a more prestigious showpiece – that of the Champions League – with Atlético in 2016, when they were beaten by fierce rivals Real Madrid on penalties.

Although Lucas was promised to gain prominence and a key role in the team in the next season, Diego Simeone used him in just 15 LaLiga games. When Theo returned from his spell at Alavés and saw his brother was not being treated fairly, he decided it was time to walk out. He had already attracted interest from several European sides, but decided to join Real Madrid, the club he supported as a boy.

Original Series  |  Brothers in Arms

In November 2017, Atlético were set to take on Los Blancos in what could had been the first time the two brothers faced each other in a professional game. Lucas started at left-back, but Theo never came off the bench. To date, they have never set foot on the same pitch.

Theo played 23 games that season but didn’t impress Zinedine Zidane, who decided to loan him out to Real Sociedad. His spell at the Basque side was convincing, however, and Theo returned to Los Blancos with a decision pending on his future.

Meanwhile, Lucas’ career was taking a different turn. Simeone had turned him into a versatile defender who could play equally well at left-back or in the centre of defence. In the midst of a great 2017/18 campaign, Lucas shared publicly his wish to play for the Spain national team in the World Cup in Russia.

“Spain has given me everything and if [Julen Lopetegui] calls me I will go,” he told the TV cameras. “If I can get the citizenship, I would be delighted. I consider myself to be Spanish. I speak better Spanish than French. With that, I said everything.”

Lucas never featured for Spain but was crowned a world champion that summer. The fact that he had played for the France under-19 side in the 2015 European Championship without having dual citizenship meant that, according to FIFA regulations, he was not eligible for La Roja.

The situation got complicated, and Spanish authorities halted the process of providing him with citizenship, when he was sentenced to community work on charges of domestic violence against his girlfriend, Amelia Lorente, after a brawl which took place in Lucas’ car.

After debuting with Les Bleus in a friendly against Colombia in March 2018, coach Didier Deschamps promised him a key role at the World Cup. Lucas played in all France’s games to lift the trophy in Russia. In response, several top European clubs knocked on the door of Atlético, who kindly pointed them to his €80m release fee.

Bayern Munich did not hesitate a moment and triggered his buyout clause to sign him in the summer of 2019. A year later, Lucas would win the treble with the Bavarians to add to his collection of Europa League and UEFA Super Cup won with Atlético in 2018.

In the meantime, Real Madrid reached an agreement with AC Milan to offload Theo in exchange for €20m. Although his career seemed to go downhill soon after moving to Los Blancos, in Italy he has found his Promised Land. He netted seven and assisted another five goals in 37 games, being Milan’s fourth top scorer in Serie A. His impressive performances were a direct message towards Deschamps ahead of the 2020 European Championships, which have since been postponed until the summer of 2021.

It was also a memo to Lucas. A clear wish that the two players can finally feature for the same side on the same pitch- something they failed to do with Atlético. “It would be amazing [to play together for France],” Lucas said in an interview for Código Único. “Hopefully one day. It is complicated, but there is nothing impossible in life.”

By Panos Kostopoulos @Panos88K

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