The first official summer signing has already been announced at Milan, as they paid €20m to snap up Real Madrid’s Franco-Spanish left-back Theo Hernandez.
Milan’s left-back option has been primarily Swiss international Ricardo Rodriguez, who played the majority of the Rossoneri’s games last season. Theo Hernandez and Rodriguez, however, are fundamentally different players.
Theo is more confident on the ball than Rodriguez, attempting and succeeding in more dribbles per game on average than the Swiss defender. Milan’s new Frenchman also has a greater tendency to cut passing lines and intercept the ball, whereas defensively, Rodriguez tends to focus more on chasing down and recovering possession through tackles.
Hernandez, despite his confidence on the ball, is more susceptible to taking longer than he should and, consequently, losing possession to the opposition. However, at just 21 years old, this is something that will only get better with time. Similarly, Hernandez gives away around one foul per game on average, whilst Rodriguez’s average is much lower, at just over 0.5 per game.
Rodriguez comes under a lot of fire for his relatively average performances for Milan over the past few years, but fundamentally he is a reliable and experienced defender. Milan already have Diego Laxalt and it would be expected that the Rossoneri would let the Uruguayan leave before Rodriguez, so as to not immediately rush Hernandez into playing every game, but at the same time, not overcrowding the position.
Last season for Sampdoria, 24-year-old Italian full-back Nicola Murru played most of their Serie A matches. Giampaolo selected Murru for this position because of his suitability to the Coach’s signature 4-3-1-2 formation. Giampaolo requires full-backs who can cover lots of ground up and down the left and right flanks, and Sampdoria signed Murru from Cagliari in 2017 for this express purpose.
However, like Bennacer shows a remarkable semblance statistically to Lucas Torreira in his time under Giampaolo at Sampdoria, Hernandez shares some key attributes with Murru, distinguishing him from Rodriguez.
For example, both Murru and Hernandez have similarly high rates of interceptions per game, as well as attempting a similar number of tackles per game. Furthermore, both cover large areas of the pitch in each game and, like Rodriguez, are both competent crossers of the ball.
Where Hernandez does differ from both Murru and Rodriguez is with his dribbling, suggesting that this could have been a trait Giampaolo considered to be desirable at Sampdoria, given the tendency of the full-backs to cover lots of ground, yet one which was not present in Murru. Therefore, when the opportunity to sign Theo Hernandez arose, for a rather modest €20m fee, it was considered a solid chance to secure a potentially important player for Giampaolo at Milan.