MADRID: Real Madrid’s new French left-back Theo Hernandez said Monday he joined the Spanish champions from cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid because he wants to learn from the “world’s best players”.
“I am very happy to be here, the best club in the world, and I have come here to learn from the best players in the world,” the 19-year-old said at his official presentation at Real’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
“I am going to follow their footsteps and try to improve each day,” he added later at his first press conference as a Real player.
Hernandez, who impressed while on loan at Basque side Alaves last season, signed with Real for the next six seasons for a reported fee of 30 million euros ($34 million).
He rejected numerous offers of a new deal from Atletico, where he was under contract until 2021, and other European clubs, reiterating his desire to play for Real Madrid.
Liverpool and Real’s arch rivals Barcelona were both reportedly chasing the player.
“You are a Real player because of your talent, because of what you have shown you can do despite being extremely young and because of your personality,” Real president Florentino Perez said before presenting Hernandez with a team jersey bearing his name and the number 15.
“You wanted to wear this jersey above all others even though other big clubs, as we all know, wanted you. Your determination and conviction are gestures which Real fans will not forget.”
Hernandez, a France Under-20 international, joined Atletico in 2008 aged 11 but never made a first team appearance for the side.
He played 38 games for Alaves on loan last season as they reached the Copa Del Rey final, where he scored a thunderbolt free-kick in a 3-1 defeat by Barcelona at Atletico’s old Vicente Calderon stadium his only competitive appearance there.
The player’s father Jean-Francois Hernandez was also a professional footballer with Toulouse, Marseille and Atletico, while his elder brother Lucas Hernandez also plays for Diego Simeone’s capital-city side.