Theo Hernandez discusses how Pioli ‘freed’ him, preferring a 3-5-2 and why he renewed

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan defender Theo Hernandez has once again stressed how important Paolo Maldini was in convincing him to join, and added that a three-man defence is one that suits him most.

Theo Hernandez arrived at Milan back in 2019 from Real Madrid and quickly broke into the starting XI, and from there he has gone from strength to strength, now establishing himself as one of the best full-backs in the division and in Europe.

He continues to be a key part of Stefano Pioli’s tactical mechanisms too, forming part of a lethal left flank which also includes Rafael Leao and contributing to goals with his surging runs..

Theo gave an interview to the French newspaper L’Equipe about a number of different topics including how he ended up at Milan and the way that he likes to play, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews.

On the formation that suits him the most: “The 3-5-2 is the best game system for my qualities. I can attack more, I have the whole team in front and I can arrive. And I also know that I am covered behind when I advance. It’s different when playing with four [in defence] I’m less free there from an attacking point of view.”

On his way of playing: “I am a modern full-back who loves to participate in the game, follow the action and scoring. This involves risks, but we know I have the body to do this job, even if it is sometimes difficult: back and forth, back and forth. In a game I do about 10 kilometres.”

On Milan: “I found the right club at the right time. We have a great future as a team, we can revive Milan. The people around are also fantastic. That’s why I extended my contract until 2026. Here there is everything to live well. Now we have to win the title. This is what we need to put Milan back in its place, at the top.”

On the captain’s armband: “I’m the 3rd or 4th captain in the hierarchy. There are Romagnoli, Kessié, Calabria and Kjaer in front of me. But between injuries and Covid I wore the armband for three games. At 24 it’s nice to be the AC Milan captain! You command more and you feel stronger too. It was the first time in my career with the armband. Even in the youth academies I had never been a captain. It’s a great experience.”

On Maldini: “When I signed for Milan it was largely thanks to him. I was very close to signing for Bayer Leverkusen, but he turned everything upside down. He came to visit me on vacation in Ibiza. We talked about football, I heard immediately that Milan was the right place. He told me many good things about my game and my progress. There is no better reference for my role and for Milan.”

On Pioli: “As soon as he arrived he insisted that I play as I know how to. He freed me. He understood my nature, my strength, he didn’t limit me. I have the DNA of a striker in a defender’s body. At Milan I am improved in front of goal, something started with Pioli. Also in the national team Deschamps tells me to push, but he also tells me not to forget to defend.”

On Giroud: “We’re close, he’s a good guy. He’s doing amazing things this season. If we’re still in the running, we owe him a lot. He’s a generous person on and off the pitch. Olivier is an example, a warrior.”

On Ibrahimovic: “He’s a ‘bad boy’! But in the right way. He’s a fighter. In training it’s the same, but he’s a good boy, he always wants to help us, he gives us advice. And when Zlatan talks, we listen.”

Tags AC Milan theo hernandez


  1. I remember, when Gareth Bale start from Southampton, and first years at Tottenham, he plays as a LB. And then, management saw his attacking abilities, and shift him to front as LW and RW; and he score many goals and became the best player of the season, and then became the most expensive player in the world, when Real Madrid bought him.
    I see exactly that in Theo! 💁🏻‍♂️
    and hope someday, someone wanna try that! Maybe he could be our missing world class RW! 🙆🏻‍♂️😅

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