Atletico president happy with Real Madrid conduct in Theo Hernandez pursuit
Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo says he does not think Theo Hernandez has signed for Real Madrid yet, but he has no problem with how Los Blancos have conducted the transfer.
A superb 2016-17 season on loan at Alaves saw Theo linked with top clubs including Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, but the 19-year-old has reportedly agreed to join Madrid, who are set to pay his €24 million release clause.
In Los Angeles this week Theo said he had “dreamed since I was little” of wearing a Real Madrid shirt, while club president Florentino Perez told Spanish radio that talks with Atletico were underway about finding an “agreement” between the clubs over a deal.
Madrid pursuing the transfer goes against a reported “gentleman’s agreement” about the clubs targeting each other’s players, and Madrid’s intentions to trigger Theo’s clause became public in April just ahead of a Champions League semifinal between the clubs.
But asked on El Transistor radio if his relationship with Perez had suffered due to Madrid’s behaviour, Cerezo denied there was any problem.
“Not at all,” he said. “It has been a very clear and clean signing. I do not know if [Theo] has signed for them yet. One thing is for him to talk about Madrid, another to have signed.”
Saul Niguez, another player linked away from Atletico with Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly interested, also joined the interview, speaking from the European Under-21 Championship in Poland.
Cerezo praised the midfielder for his outstanding performances in scoring five goals in three games as Spain have reached Friday evening’s final against Germany, and acknowledged recent speculation that the 23-year-old’s future is up in the air amid talks over a pay-rise.
“Congratulations first of all for the games you have played and your season over all,” Cerezo said. “We know that we have to put up with, once again, all this about whether you are staying or leaving. I believe that this time, as always, there is nothing to it.”
With the radio host pushing for details on how contract talks with Saul’s agent Jorge Mendes are progressing, the usually relaxed Cerezo grew increasingly uncomfortable.
“There are such things as confidentiality clauses around these things, and the lawyers are involved,” he said. “The only thing I can say is that Saul has a long-term contract. Plus he is a player who wants to be at Atletico Madrid.”
Currently under contract until 2021, and aware of the club having given pay-rises earlier this summer to teammates Antoine Griezmann and Koke, €80 million-rated Saul himself stopped short of committing his long-term future to the club while saying that of course the feeling of playing for Atletico was more important than money.
“Thanks Enrique, the first thing to say is that I am with you,” Saul said. “We all know about these things, that I am very happy. You never know what will happen in this world, but it is very difficult [to leave Atletico]. In the end the feelings come out on top of other things. I have a contract with Atleti and I am very good where I am.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan