Arsenal may add to their ranks this summer with a £15m move for Lazio's classy Brazilian playmaker Hernanes. 'The Prophet' goes under our scouting microscope...
Hernanes is in the middle of that tricky ‘second season syndrome’ in Italian football where he has had to come to terms with the demands of being a team player.
The Brazilian playmaker’s first year at Lazio was one of maverick performances but with a tendency to drift out of matches when the pressure started to tell, all but leaving his team a man short, which only led to more and more frustration as he strived to impose himself on some of the world’s most cunning midfielders and defenders.
Much of the feeling that he had a lot more to offer was due to his lack of physical strength in coping with the physical demands of Serie A, but the elegant midfielder has finally found some muscle to go with his dazzling footwork.
Now 26, he arrived relatively late in Europe, having previously drawn the attention of AC Milan who were seeking a back-up for Andrea Pirlo, with some sparkling performances in a deep-lying role for Sao Paolo. While the Rossoneri scouts felt that there would be few or no problems improving his fitness and adding bulk to his 1.80m frame his lack of pace was a much more worrying issue.
It is true that by the standards of the modern game, Hernanes is very much in the slow lane but while he cannot burst past an opponent in the manner compatriot Kakà once did at Milan, he can certainly tie them in knots with his close control and quick feet.
In fact, he is equally at home dribbling with either foot, and that goes for striking a shot as well. Something of a set-piece specialist, it is no wonder he is dubbed O Propheta (The Prophet) because delivering a ball, be it with his left or right, he guides it with unerring accuracy to the area he was aiming for.
Rather than building the team around such inspirational skills, it is Hernanes who has bowed to the needs of the team.
Hernanes is very much in the slow lane but while he cannot burst past an opponent in the manner compatriot Kakà once did at Milan, he can certainly tie them in knots with his close control and quick feet.
While last season there were too many flashy runs which may have seen him slalom through tackles only to discover that he had no support or had run into a dead-end, this term his more thoughtful reading of the game has seen him become the perfect link-player between midfield and attack.
More at home in the centre playing off two strikers, Hernanes can swagger out wide to collect the ball on either flank to then drift back infield thus giving the midfielders that extra second or so to time their own run forward.
It is a tactic that has also brought out the best in Miroslav Klose, who having moved to the Italian capital on the back of something of a goal drought in the Bundesliga, has benefited from Hernanes’ ability to draw challenges before releasing the striker into a goalscoring position.
Tasked at times with having to track back and lend an extra body in Lazio’s final third, this has arguably had a negative effect on a player of such vision going forward. Although he could yet find himself returning to his roots in front of the defence as his career progresses to finally put those Pirlo comparisons to rights.
The question now is that with Hernanes in the middle of his peak years, will he turn the regista role into his own and demand that at whatever club he plays for next season, be it Lazio who after all are currently on course for qualification to the Champions League preliminary round, or wherever, the system is built around him rather than the other way round?
Even so, any potential buyer knows that they will acquire not only a classy operator but also one who understands how to to adapt and bring out the best in others.
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