Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has challenged £850,000 man Ronald Hernandez to “dig deep and work hard” to break into the starting line-up.
Venezuelan international defender Hernandez has started just three games since his big-money move from Norwegians Stabaek on January’s transfer deadline day.
The 23-year-old was substituted at half-time on his most recent start – a 1-0 win over St Johnstone in August. Since then he has played for just seven minutes – in the 3-0 defeat of Ross County.
Despite the lack of game time, Hernandez is in the Venezuelan squad for World Cup qualifiers against Colombia tomorrow and Paraguay next Tuesday.
McInnes hopes the internationals can be a catalyst to push on with his Dons career.
He said: “The plan for Ronny, like everybody else not playing week-in, week-out, is to dig deep and work hard to get in the team.
“Ronny is in the squad for games against Colombia and Paraguay.
“I think he is glad to be closer to his family and get the chance to play for his country in two very important games.
“Hopefully Ronny can get a wee boost by getting involved.”
Capped 15 times so far, Hernandez will travel more than 10,000 miles to play for his nation in the South American qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
In summer 2018, he starred for Venezuela in the run to the Copa America quarter-finals and started the 2-0 loss to Argentina in the last eight.
He also started in a 0-0 draw with hosts and eventual winners Brazil in the group stages.
That international pedigree, the significant fee and a four-and-a-half year deal ensured expectations were high with fans when he signed for Aberdeen.
However, Hernandez arrived at Pittodrie on January 31 short of match practice and sharpness.
His last competitive action was December 1 in the final match of the Norwegian season – a campaign in which he played 26 times for Stabaek.
Since arriving in Aberdeen nine months ago, the defender has been separated from his family.
His wife Krisvany and daughter Adeline were set to join him in the Granite City, but Venezuela then went into lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.
They are still in troubled Venezuela, despite attempts by Hernandez and the Dons to get them across to Scotland.
Besides the pandemic, Venezuela is in crisis as the economy has collapsed into hyperinflation, causing food, fuel and vital medicine shortages.
There has also been a recent uprising of political opposition to president Nicolas Maduro.
McInnes hopes the defender can reunite with his wife and daughter back in Venezuela.
He said: “Ronny hasn’t seen his wife and family for nine months.
“We have to hope he has that dispensation which we have for travelling here when he gets there. Whether he gets to see his family, I don’t know.
“Hopefully that will be the case, but we’ll make sure he is well looked after when he comes back to us before we go to Tannadice.”
Why isn’t Ronald Hernandez getting into the Aberdeen side? We discussed his situation on our Northern Goal podcast:
Due to strict coronavirus protocols from Fifa for international matches, it appears unlikely Hernandez will be allowed to reunite with his family.
The Venezuelan FA have confirmed the team will be in strict quarantine in a hotel in Maiquetia, central Venezuela.
They will then fly out to Barranquilla in Colombia, where they will be confined to the hotel, apart from training and the match.
After the Colombia match they return via a chartered flight to Merida in Venezuela, where they will again be confined to the hotel until the match. With Hernandez having featured in just five of the 21 games since his signing, McInnes refuses to rule out the option of a potential January loan move.
On a possible loan period, Mcinnes said: “Once we get closer to the January window we could maybe make these sort, of assessments and decisions on boys who are not playing regularly.”