Although fresh media reports claim that Real Madrid remain keen to bring both Theo and Lucas Hernandez across the capital from Atletico Madrid this summer, it looks most likely that the brothers will be facing each other on opposite sides of the divide in the Spanish capital in the coming seasons.
Wednesday morning’s Marca went big with a story headlined “Lucas in the pipeline,” which said that Madrid had long been tracking the older brother and even tried to pay his €40 million release clause last season only for the player himself to turn them down.
– MARCA (@marca) June 29, 2017
This is in strict contrast to the situation with younger sibling Theo, who this week all but confirmed he was leaving Atletico to move within the city. During a commercial appearance in Los Angeles he told a reporter that it had been his “dream since I was little” to represent Real, knowing well that the quote would make it back home immediately.
These comments understandably did not go down well at all with Atletico president Enrique Cerezo, who said Theo “must have been mistaken” to have spent almost a decade coming through the Rojiblanco youth ranks if that were the case.
Regardless of how feelings might be hurting around the new Wanda Metropolitano stadium, Cerezo more or less accepted that the player would be on the move. This also came just hours after Blancos chief Florentino Perez had told a radio interview that negotiations were ongoing with Atletico, leaving open the possibility that the two clubs could agree a fee. Madrid would then not have to go as far as triggering his €24m release clause, keeping things simpler on all sides.
Born in Marseille when their father Jean-Francois Hernandez was playing there, the two siblings came through Atletico’s youth set-up just a year apart. Their connection to the club was strengthened by Jean-Francois, also a tough defender, spending the 2000-01 season at the Calderon.
Both were long been earmarked as senior stars for both club and country. The two France youth internationals played together regularly for Atletico in the Europa Youth League, and during the 2014-15 season became the first brothers in 60 years to share a pitch representing the Colchoneros first team.
Thursday’s Marca story on Lucas, written by a reporter close to the Bernabeu hierarchy, more or less accepted the failure of Madrid’s efforts to tempt him away. It also mentioned that his advisors — who also look after Theo — had leveraged interest from other clubs including Manchester City and Barcelona to get two significant pay rises in the last 12 months.
Lucas, 21, has slotted impressively into Diego Simeone’s well-organised defence, not looking out of place in big games against Madrid, Barca and Bayern Munich. He’s also a left-footer but looks likely long term to be a centre-back where his strength in the air and reading of the game are best utilised.
Theo, 20 months the younger, was outstanding on loan at Alaves last term, playing 38 times in his first season at top-flight level. He impressed everyone with his swashbuckling runs forward down the wing, and his physicality and aggression in defence. He also showcased his technical ability with a fine free kick goal in the Copa del Rey final defeat to Barca.
With Theo having made up his mind to cross the capital, also turning down reported interest from Bayern Munich and Liverpool, the scene is set for years of sibling rivalry on the pitch at the Bernabeu and Wanda Metropolitano. Both brothers look physically ready to compete at the very top level, but there remain some questions about their maturity off the pitch.
Theo has shown a lot of swagger in dealing with all the speculation over his future, but Madrid’s hierarchy would probably have preferred for him to keep a lower profile before the deal gets finalised. It also remains to be seen how he will handle a back-up role at the Bernabeu, given it is unlikely he will displace first choice left-back Marcelo any time soon.
Lucas was found guilty of a domestic violence offence last February, and given a 28 days community service sentence. He then drew more headlines recently when he spent a night in prison having breached a restraining order by attempting to take a flight from Madrid’s Barajas airport in the company of his still partner, with later reports saying the couple had got married in Las Vegas.
It is clear that both brothers have the confidence and ability to make it at the very top of the game. But it remains to be seen whether Atletico or Real will get the better of this summer’s family split.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan