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Sean Wallace: Could Aberdeen yet make a profit on the Ronald Hernandez saga?

Full-back Ronald Hernandez has completed a permanent transfer from Aberdeen to Atlanta United.
Full-back Ronald Hernandez has completed a permanent transfer from Aberdeen to Atlanta United.

Could Aberdeen yet make a profit on the failed experiment of signing Venezuelan international Ronald Hernandez?

Right-back Hernandez has completed a permanent move to MLS side Atlanta United, Aberdeen’s strategic partners.

Aberdeen received very little bang for their buck having signed the defender for £850,000 from Norwegian side Stabaek in 2020.

Just three starts with a further three appearances off the bench was a dismal return for the Dons’ most expensive signing in more two decades.

Aberdeen’s Ronald Hernandez in action against Rangers at Ibrox Stadium in November 2020.

The full-back racked up just 221 minutes of action for Aberdeen, which – given the transfer fee – works out at £3,846 a minute.

However there could yet be a silver lining, and profit, to the Hernandez saga.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack confirmed Aberdeen ‘recouped the vast majority of our investment’ in Hernandez with the switch to Atlanta.

Crucially, Cormack said the Dons also have a sizeable sell-on clause which would land them a cash bonus should Hernandez impress and land a big money move.

Any potential of a money spinning transfer may seem a long way off when Hernandez’s limited impact at Pittodrie is viewed in isolation.

Ronald Hernandez in action for Aberdeen during a pre-season friendly against Hibs  at Pittodrie in July 2020.

Much was expected of Hernandez who was billed as an exciting, attacking right-back.

Aberdeen fans never got to see that. They are now seeing those attributes with Pittodrie Youth Academy graduate Calvin Ramsay.

Hernandez arrived at Pittodrie short of match sharpness as the Norwegian league had ended two months prior to his move.

The pandemic hit two months later. When football returned Hernandez never gained any momentum and drifted out of contention and across the Atlantic on loan.

Ronald Hernandez pictured when signing at Aberdeen.

Atlanta-based Aberdeen chairman Cormack has said the burden of the financial outlay for Hernandez wasn’t on Aberdeen.

He said the investment for Hernandez transfer to Pittodrie in 2020 came from an interest-free loan from his family, which was subsequently converted to shares.

Initially under Gabriel Heinze the defender struggled for game time at Atlanta.

However in the second half of 2021 Hernandez became a starter under new manager Gonzola Pineda.

That resurgence at club level was the catalyst for Hernandez becoming re-established as a regular starter in the Venezuelan national squad.

Last summer Hernandez played, and scored, in the Copa America finals.

Playing in major international tournaments tends to elevate a player’s value.

Furthermore he started World Cup qualifiers for Venezuela last October against Brazil, Ecuador and Chile.

Hernandez is expected to be called into the Venezuela squad this month for further qualifiers against Bolivia (home, January 26) and Uruguay (away, January 31).

The defender is an established international who also played in the quarter-finals of the Copa America in 2019. He has pedigree and a reputation away from Scotland.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi, right, and Venezuela’s Ronald Hernandez in  the Copa America quarter-final in 2019.

Atlanta United have not signed Hernandez on the basis of his disappointing time in the Scottish Premiership.

They have a strong understanding of Venezuelan football and the South American market. Atlanta currently have five Argentinean, two Venezuelan and two Brazilian players on their roster.

At Atlanta, Hernandez will have to battle it out with Brooks Lennon for the right-back spot.

However he will be playing at a club that registered an average attendance of 43,964 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last season.

Ronald Hernandez in action during his loan spell at Atlanta United

That is almost double the second highest average attendance in the MLS.

Atlanta United reached the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League in 2021 and 2019.

The potential to play in high profile games in front of huge crowds is there.

If he can get regular club football and shine, along with his resurgent international career, a lucrative transfer away from Atlanta in the future is not impossible.

However like his move to Aberdeen, there remains a lot of ifs, buts and moving parts.

Hernandez’s time at the Dons is now over but the most disappointing, and expensive, transfer in recent years could yet pay dividends.

Maybe Aberdeen supporters haven’t heard the last of Ronald Hernandez.

Plan B as McGrath interest ends

Aberdeen will move on to other options after pulling the plug on their pre-contract move for midfielder Jamie McGrath.

The Dons had opened talks with the Republic of Ireland international last month and made a strong offer.

However the 25-year-old decided to keep his options open.

Aberdeen have ended their interest in St Mirren midfielder Jamie McGrath.

Aberdeen were not prepared to play the waiting game and ended their interest.

It is disappointing the bid to get McGrath is over as he is an exciting talent.

He netted 17 goals in all competitions for a St Mirren team that finished in the bottom six last season.

McGrath was superb in the recent 0-0 World Cup qualifier draw with Portugal.

What is clear is that Aberdeen need a creative playmaker who can turn games.

Attacker Ryan Hedges during an Aberdeen training session in preparation for the game against Rangers.

Especially as Ryan Hedges appears destined to exit Pittodrie, either in the January transfer window or at the end of the season.

Blackburn Rovers want to secure Hedges on a pre-contract and have already offered the Welsh international a summer move.

Aberdeen are still waiting for confirmation from the Championship outfit that they plan to speak to the 26-year-old or have sealed a pre-contract.

With Hedges set to exit and the McGrath interest over Aberdeen have to move to plan B to sign a creative playmaker.

Aberdeen’s Ryan Hedges in action during the 2-1 defeat of Dundee.

FIFA’s right yellow card right call

Thankfully FIFA have seen common sense by approving a yellow card amnesty for the World Cup play-offs in March.

It is a major boost ahead of Scotland’s play-off clash with Ukraine.

Steve Clarke’s side were walking a suspension tightrope ahead of that Hampden clash.

Eight Scots were  just one booking in that Ukraine match away from a suspension, should they reach the final against Wales or Austria.

Boss Clarke appealed to FIFA to wipe out the yellow cards ahead of the play-offs.

Thankfully they saw sense and wiped the slate clean. Now Scotland can play without the threat of suspension for the final hanging over them.

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