Atletico Madrid star defender Lucas Hernandez has been the subject of numerous transfer rumors of late, linking the 22-year-old defender specifically to Bayern Munich.
Hernandez has indisputable talent, boasting a mix of strength and speed that would allow him to be an impact player at center-back or at left-back for nearly any team on the planet.
Like some athletes, however, Hernandez’s pace, power, and skill come with extra baggage. For Hernandez, that baggage includes a conviction for domestic violence. Off-the-field behavior and actions may not be relevant to some club officials or fans, but they can weigh heavily for others. For a club like Bayern, as it strives to operate in today’s environment, the decision looms as to whether Hernandez is the kind of player the club should pursue.
Examining the situation
Many professional sports teams have employed players with a record of domestic abuse — some have gone so far as to employ people who have done even worse. Generally, many rosters in sports have at least a few slots occupied by all-around bad people. In the world of professional athletics, that is just the nature of the game. There is a very small pool of world-class talent, and professional clubs compete to procure it, sometimes without regard for a player’s character or moral integrity.
In today’s world, though, there is not much that can be effectively swept under the rug like in the past. With so much information readily available and out in the open, clubs and fan bases alike now have to ask themselves: just what is winning worth to them in terms of character?
For Hernandez, the details of his incident with a significant other are harrowing. On the night of February 3rd, 2017 Hernandez made some monumental mistakes during a disturbance with his girlfriend Amelia Lorente. Per Marca, the two got into an argument during which Lorente slashed at Hernandez’s cheek with her keys and then keyed his car, after which Hernandez came out and assaulted her on “the ribs, back, right arm, jaw, and upper lip region,” also causing her to hurt her elbow on a wall.
For all of that, both Hernandez and Amelia Lorente were found guilty of domestic violence and each given a sentence of 31 days of community service per (ESPN). Neither of them claimed any compensation for the damages.
As both parties were seen as “at fault” for the incident, some will rule that the incident should be left in the past, but others will have a hard time getting over Hernandez’s inability to restrain himself from retaliating.
Then there is the strange sequel to the domestic violence conviction that landed Hernandez in jail for a night for violating a restraining order that prohibited him from being within 500 meters of his Lorente. Hernandez was arrested at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid—Barajas Airport “for failing to comply with the restraining order that was put in place after a fight between the couple last February” (AS):
Hernandez and the female in question [i.e. Lorente] went on holidays to the Bahamas and returned on Tuesday. As they passed through passport control, a warning was triggered on the computer and the police detained the couple.
Hernandez was jailed for the night, while Lorente was released. The confusion over the restraining order kind of brings the whole incident full circle. For what it is worth, the couple is now married and has appeared to move on.
For Bayern, the club has already dealt with its own domestic violence incident as Kingsley Coman accepted a charge that was alleged by his former girlfriend back in September of 2017.
The difference for Coman is that he was already a Bayern player and the club could pledge support to help him through a horrible situation. For Hernandez, however, this is a known issue and there is no such club loyalty that needs to be displayed.
When evaluating the gravity of an incident such as the one that Hernandez was involved in, it is often stated that everyone deserves a second chance. The arguments and opinions would fly wildly if one just looked at this incident in a silo.
Does a player who has struck a woman in anger deserve a second chance? If so, where do you draw the line? Does a player who has engaged in what would outwardly appear to be destructive — or at least reckless — behavior warrant an €80m investment?
These are not questions that can be answered on this page, but they are certainly questions that teams like Bayern must ponder while assessing how to best build their rosters now and in the future.
Assessing the risk
On talent alone, Hernandez represents a dynamic fit on the Bayern roster. If we look at the total picture, however, there may be some doubt as to whether an €80m gamble is worth the risk.
Maybe Hernandez had one off night that will never happen again? Maybe his incident is just the beginning of many more to come? No one knows and the Bayern front office must assess if this is a player who warrants the trust it requires to make such an investment or if it can find another option that might present less risk.
Bayern gambled on Coman’s ability to rehabilitate himself and his image. Would it do the same for Hernandez?
We’ll just have to wait and find out.