After joining the club this summer, Lucas Hernandez made his Bundesliga debut for Bayern Munich in Matchday 2’s 3-0 win over Schalke. Despite the seemingly normal timing of his first start in Bayern red, the France international has had a long and hard road to reach this point.
Following the announcement of his move to the record German champions back in March, 23-year-old Hernandez underwent surgery on a knee ligament injury, which sidelined him for the remainder of the 2018/19 season with former employers Atletico Madrid.
Four months of intense rehabilitation training through the end of the campaign and into this summer would test the strength of mind of any player. Doing so at a new club and in a new country took that test to another level for the FIFA World Cup-winning defender, but his patience and determination were rewarded on Saturday evening at the Veltins-Arena.
"I'm very happy," Hernandez said after the victory over Schalke. "After five months of injury, I really felt like playing this game. Now my chance came and I tried to make the most of it, I played for almost 80 minutes and I’m very happy.
"I had to work hard, but to play again after such a long time is the best thing that could happen to me."
Hernandez played in the centre of defence alongside Niklas Süle as Bayern kept their first clean sheet of the Bundesliga season. Completing 74 of his 78 attempted passes, as well as winning nine tackles and both of his battles in the air, it was a dominant first outing.
The Marseille-born defender was only put in the starting line-up because of the late withdrawal of Thiago Alcantara due to injury. Bayern coach Niko Kovac was rewarded with placing his trust in Hernandez to make his mark against Schalke only a week after Bayern's defence leaked two goals at home to Hertha Berlin in the season opener.
"He [Thiago] couldn't play, so the coach decided that I would take his place in the starting line-up," Hernandez explained. "I tried to do my best to let everyone know they could count on me when I was on the pitch."
Hernandez's Bundesliga debut was one of three for the defending champions on Saturday as Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho both came on from the bench in the second half to begin life with the league’s record champions.
The former Atletico defender didn’t play against his then league rival, Coutinho, when Barcelona faced the Madrid side last season. Hernandez is well aware, though, of the talent that the Brazil international brings to Munich, and how key he will be throughout the 2019/20 season.
"Coutinho is a great player, one of the best players in the world," Hernandez said. "Last year in Barcelona he didn't have the rhythm he had in other years, but I think that'll change again and he'll show his quality - and that he can become a very important player for us."
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