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Farewell Fernando – Where next for Spanish star Llorente?
- Updated: 18 October, 2012
It’s a shame it’s ending like this, but Fernando Llorente’s time at Athletic Bilbao is drawing to a close. The Basque sides talismanic striker has already stated his intention to leave San Mames, and with his contract set to expire in June 2013 there seems little doubt the Spanish international is heading for pastures new.
To make matters worse, his relationship with Marcelo Bielsa has become increasingly strained over the summer, leading to some very public bust ups – including Llorente leaving the training ground. As a result, Bielsa has chosen to use Aritz Aduriz instead of Llorente, as a form of punishment for Llorente’s desire to leave.
A key cog of Athletic’s run to the Europa League final last season, Llorente has been a fans favourite in the Basque Country for many years. However, the debacle over his exit has left a sour taste in the mouths of Athletic fans – some of whom showed a banner reading “Mercenaries Out” at the club training ground. His imminent departure is yet another blow for the club, who have already lost Javi Martinez in the summer and with boss Marcelo Bielsa under pressure, the team looks to be some way short of last year’s success.
Athletic now have two options. They can either sell Llorente in January and receive a transfer fee for him, or have him sit on the sidelines until the summer where he can leave for nothing. We all know that Llorente is a top class striker, and his 29 goals for Bilbao last season has put him on the wishlist of many teams around Europe. With him now being available, who are the favourites for his signature?
There are clearly some issues as to where exactly Llorente would play. Zlatan Ibrahimovic famously failed at Camp Nou, but that doesn’t mean a big man couldn’t be used again. Tito Vilanova has already shown signs of implementing a slightly more direct approach, and adding Llorente would offer a different dimension to the Barcelona attack. Money is in short supply for the club, so securing Llorente on a pre-contract agreement would be a far cheaper alternative than another rumoured target, Falcao.
In early August, Juventus director general Beppe Marotta publicly announced their intentions to sign Llorente. “We are negotiating to bring Llorente here, but it’s not an easy process because Athletic don’t want to sell him.” Since then, Juve have signed Nicklas Bendtner but the fans are still craving a big name striker to spearhead their attack. Right now, this move seems the most likely, with Llorente’s agent claiming the player wants to move to Turin.
This has to be the most unlikely of the lot. But Liverpool need a striker. Desperately. They can’t afford to rely on Luis Suarez forever, so attacking reinforcements will be brought in during the next transfer window. Brendan Rodgers had success with a relative “big man” in Danny Graham at Swansea, and using Llorente in the centre of his 4-3-3 would take a weight of Suarez’s shoulders. It would be an ambitious move by their American owners, but one that I’m sure would pay dividends.
A team in total ruin right now, but the plan is for a period of rebuilding to occur at the San Siro. Having sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, the team is without a true focal point in attack. Llorente’s height, strength and aerial ability would give them a great replacement for the Swede.Follow @icentrocampista