Cucho Hernandez: Watford Cannot Afford A Luis Suarez Repeat

Watford have been increasing their international scouting activity ever since the Pozzo family bought the Club in 2012. When Watford sign a youngster from South America, the player typically spends their first couple of seasons under contract with the Hornets elsewhere – whether due to work permit issues or simply a lack of experience. Cucho Hernandez, the embodiment of Watford’s South American scouting and integration system, is nearing a pivotal junction in his career. The Club need to make sure the Colombian does not follow in the footsteps of a player nearly identical to him.   

Hernandez’s Time In Europe

The 21-year-old forward signed for Watford in 2017 from Pereira in his home nation of Colombia. He has yet to make an appearance for the Hornets, but he has been improving tremendously abroad. Hernandez earned a loan move to SD Huesca in the 2017/18 season. The La Liga side were in the second-tier during the first half of his two-year loan spell. He was the focal point to their first-ever promotion to the top flight. In that campaign, he scored 17 goals and assisted on six in 35 appearances. 

The following season was less successful for Hernandez and SD Huesca. The Club were unable to avoid relegation, missing out on safety by eight points. Nonetheless, Hernandez was pivotal to the highlights of their inaugural La Liga campaign. Despite only scoring four goals and providing three assists, it was evident the Colombian was continuing to improve. He scored a goal against both Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Watford elected to loan Hernandez to RCD Mallorca for the 2019/20 season to ensure he continued to receive top-flight minutes. He missed the Spanish side’s first 15 matches due to injury. When he regained fitness, he continued to show signs of why he is so highly-rated. In 22 appearances, he scored five times and assisted once. Unfortunately for Hernandez, his side finished in 19th for the second season running, although this time only missing on safety by four points. 

The current season saw Hernandez depart on his highest-profile loan yet: a year-long transfer to Getafe, which made the Europa League Round of 16 last season. For the club based in Madrid, Hernandez scored two times and assisted on three goals. Despite recently being ruled out for the season due to a fifth-metatarsal fracture, his host club wants him to stay for at least the next campaign. But, according to Marca, Watford do not want to listen to offers just yet – and wisely so. 

Watford Must Avoid Another Luis Javier Suarez Scenario

Luis Javier Suarez’s career was nearly identical to Hernandez’s until the most recent summer transfer window — when Suarez was sold for a fee worth up to eight figures. 

Like Hernandez, Watford bought Suarez from a Colombian side (Leones FC). Suarez spent some time with Granada CF’s Under-19 setup and second-team as a loanee from Leones FC before his sale to the Hornets. In his first season under contract with Watford, he was loaned to Real Valladolid B in the Spanish third-tier. In 34 appearances, Suarez scored 11 times. 

In the 2018/19 season, Suarez was loaned to Gimnastic in the Spanish second-tier. Eight goal contributions in 37 appearances continued to gain recognition for the strong forward. Last campaign, his loan to the same league with Real Zaragoza put him in the scouting notes of some of the top teams in the world. A 19-goal, six-assist season to lead his side to the Segunda Division Promotion Playoffs earned him a transfer to Europa-League-competing Granada CF.

Watford, however, wanted to keep hold of the 23-year-old. When the Spanish second-tier resumed play for the promotion playoffs, the Hornets did not allow Suarez to play for Real Zaragoza, as they wanted him in England for preseason preparations instead. He even donned a Watford kit in a friendly against Scunthorpe. The ever-improving versatile attacker, who now has seven goals in 27 appearances for Granada CF, would have been a focal point in the Hornets’ push for promotion.

Nonetheless, between the financial implications of the coronavirus and relegation, Watford knew they could not turn down a sizable bid. And so, when the offer arrived, Suarez departed for good. The substantial profit from the transfer of a player who never played a competitive minute with the Club is still impressive and noteworthy, but Watford certainly missed a grand opportunity to have a truly prolific striker.

If Hernandez follows Suarez’s path, then the Watford hierarchy will be frustrated for a long time. Even if Joao Pedro is to be the heir to Deeney’s high-scoring throne, they must avoid losing Hernandez. Chances at finding and inexpensively developing such young, talented, ever-improving goal-scorers are hard to come by. His future at Vicarage Road, however, has a key focus.

Keeping Hernandez Nearly Contingent On Promotion

As stated, Marca recently reported Watford are unwilling to listen to offers for Hernandez until the end of the season. The Club believe that if they are to be promoted, then it is the perfect time for Hernandez to finally make Vicarage Road his year-round home. And, based on an interview with a radio station from Pereira, Hernandez is not expected to reject the prospect of playing with Watford in the Premier League. 

Of course, promotion to the Premier League is far from secured. Although the Hornets currently sit in the driver’s seat for the second automatic promotion spot, anything can happen with eight matches remaining. A return to the Promised Land is nowhere near guaranteed, hence why the Club are unsure about his future. It seems Watford’s future determines Hernandez’s. If Watford continue to play Championship football next season, then they seem resigned to cashing in. 

Still, Watford should solidify Hernandez’s future at Vicarage Road as soon as possible. If the Hornets do not achieve promotion but are able to keep Hernandez, then they will still be promotion contenders next season, even if other notable names depart. Having Hernandez in the Premier League would be helpful and a luxury, but having him next campaign no matter what will massively benefit the Hornets in many ways. If he follows in Suarez’s footsteps, the Hornets will have missed out on properly utilizing yet another future star. 

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