Spain's Julen Lopetegui hints Theo Hernandez could switch from France
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has not ruled out the possibility that Atletico Madrid defender Theo Hernandez could switch allegiance from France.
Theo, 19, burst onto the scene last season with a series of impressive displays on loan at Alaves from Atletico, including a fine goal in the Copa del Rey final defeat to Barcelona, and Real Madrid are reportedly set to trigger his €24 million release clause this summer.
Last week, the Atletico youth product, who was born in Marseille, failed to turn up for duty with France's under-21 squad, fuelling speculation that he could take advantage of his residency of over 10 years in Spain to declare for La Roja.
Speaking on the "El Larguero" radio show, Lopetegui said Theo's case was different to when Diego Costa switched allegiances from Brazil to Spain, but he did not rule out the possibility of him doing so in the future.
"We cannot pick him -- he is French, not Spanish," Lopetegui said. "We focus on those that we can pick. If he had Spanish nationality... It is a different case to Diego Costa. He is not part of our plans at the moment, we are just thinking about those who can help us qualify for the World Cup."
Current Chelsea and former Atletico striker Costa had represented Brazil in two friendlies before taking the decision to play for Spain at the 2014 World Cup.
He has since had a mixed time with Spain, missing out completely on Euro 2016, but is back in favour as first-choice striker under Lopetegui.
Theo has played 16 times in total for France's U18, U19 and U20 sides, and was due to represent Les Bleus at the ongoing Under-20 World Cup in South Korea, but was excused so he could play for Alaves in the Copa del Rey final.
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