Hernanes somersaulting at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome was not unusual in years gone by during his time at Lazio. Seeing him do so for Internazionale in their 2-1 win over his former club on Sunday was a surreal sight, though, as the Brazilian midfielder continued his good form.
It was more than just scoring against your old club, for Hernanes it was relief. Both he and the team have not been able to reach their potential this season and instead have dovetailed each other in a cycle of inconsistency. This was his night however and he lit up his old ground in what has to be said was a bizarre game.
Lazio had taken an early lead through Andrea Candreva's snap-shot, but Hernanes' free-kick and late winner settled it for Inter after the hosts had Mauricio and goalkeeper Frederico Marchetti sent off. The match saw Lazio end the game with nine men and they were evidently furious with the referee. A showdown packed with incident also saw Mauro Icardi have his penalty saved by substitute goalkeeper Etrit Berisha, with what was his first touch -- and a fine stop. The night belonged to Hernanes however, and he dedicated his flamboyant celebration as a jibe towards the man that sold him, President Claudio Lotito.
There is no hiding from the fact that the Brazilian has not had the desired affect since arriving at Inter Milan in 2014. When Lotito sold him for 20 million euros, fans of the Biancoceleste protested. Hernanes played 118 times and scored 33 goals at his previous club and supporters were furious to see him go, nicknaming him "The Prophet".
The nickname has not been used much during his time at Inter, though, with fans struggling to be won over. It was expected that he would make an immediate impact when he joined at 28 -- Inter expected the same Hernanes that had terrorised them in a Lazio shirt but his career failed to take off from the start. He has been played in a number of positions and struggled to hold any of them down.
The Brazilian has been played as a deep-lying midfielder on both the left and the right and also been asked to perform the box to box role. He has flirted with the Trequartista position also but due to tactical changes and Inter's own poor showings he has not been able to play with any consistency.
The San Siro has not been a stable place to play your football over the past few years and Hernanes seemed to suffer initially. The change of coaches and system this year cannot have helped either. His goals against Lazio brought his total to three for the season and he will be hoping there's more to come.
Inter have made the slow transition from Walter Mazzarri's 3-5-2 to Roberto Mancini's 4-3-1-2 with agonising difficulty. At times it seemed they were switching one confused formation with another and throughout all of this Hernanes has tried to adapt. He is currently holding Xherdan Shaqiri at arms-length and not allowing him to take his role and adding goals to his game will certainly not harm his chances of securing it for longer.
Mancini, it seems, has eventually started to find some form after finding a solid defensive unit and settling upon his preferred midfield. The same players playing week in and week out has seen then go unbeaten in seven matches. Now incredibly, after the win in the Stadio Olimpico, they find themselves looking at the Europa League again and believing they can qualify.
Inter face Juventus next in the Derby D'Italia and will need to be at their best. No matter how the Bianconeri perform in the Champions League, they will need no motivation against their old foes. The Nerazzurri played well last time out in Turin and will need to get a result at home to keep their rejuvenated unit on track for Europe. A win over The Old Lady would be a huge indicator for next season that the path they are on is the right one.
As Inter try to secure the last Europa League spot, Hernanes and the team are hitting form at the right time but consistency as always will be key. If The Prophet is to earn his nickname in Milan, then he will need to lead them into a new dawn. Hernanes has all the ability to make this happen and it seems now like he has the belief.