Football

Prem clubs should take a chance on Llorente

Llorente would be a Premier League hit. (©GettyImages)
Llorente would be a Premier League hit. (©GettyImages).

Fernando Llorente is a one club man. Starting his professional career with Athletic Bilbao - whom he joined in 1996 at the tender age of 11 - the Spaniard began swiftly working his way through the youth ranks, before making his first-team debut for Los Leones in January 2005.

Now 27, and a fully capped Spanish international, having won the World Cup with his country in 2010, Llorente has developed into one of the most highly rated offensive players in all of La Liga.

Affectionately known as 'El Rey Leon', or 'The Lion King' in his native tongue, the 6ft 5in striker continues to draw plaudits from right across the continent, following a number of scintillating performances both domestically and in Europe.

It was Llorente who took centre-stage in Thursday night's Europa League semi-final second leg clash against Sporting Lisbon in San Mames. With the tie tentatively poised at 2-1 to Bilbao on the night, and 3-3 on aggregate, both sides were preparing for extra-time, before the forward struck two minutes before the final whistle.

Llorente broke down in tears at the end, as his side booked a final showdown with Primera Division rivals Atletico Madrid in Bucharest next month. The achievement of Marcelo Bielsa's side marks only the second time Athletic have reached a European final, after finishing runners-up in the 1977 UEFA Cup.

 

Speaking after the game, an emotional Llorente explained: "The truth is that what happened in San Mames is incredible. It's the first time that I've cried while playing a football match.

"Without doubt, it's the most important goal that I've scored in my entire career. It's got us into a final and with that we've also gone down in history.

"But now we have an opportunity to win the tournament and hopefully we can continue contributing to making this history even greater."

In the aftermath of Thursday's match-winning performance, and with the summer transfer window fast approaching, it's likely that many eyes will be on Llorente, as a host of leading clubs look to bolster their forward lines with a marquee signing.

And, with seven goals in 20 appearances for Spain, the Bilbao star is likely to be a prominent figure for the reigning European champions in Poland and Ukraine in June, putting himself right in the shop window.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is a long-term admirer of Llorente, and according to The Sun earlier this month, is prepared to pay big-money to bring him to north London as a replacement for Emmanuel Adebayor, who is set to leave White Hart Lane upon the completion of his season long loan spell.

However, Manchester City - the club that Adebayor will return to - have also emerged as contenders for the highly sought after striker's signature, with Roberto Mancini planning a £30million bid this summer.

With a five-year deal reportedly on the table, and wages close to £200,000-a-week on offer for Llorente, talks between Citizens officials and the player's representatives are believed to be at an advanced stage.

Athletic's remarkable run of success this campaign, spearheaded by the attacking prowess of their leading marksman, Llorente - who has netted a total of 28 goals in 2011-12 - in his most prolific season, leaves the club at risk of becoming victims of their own success.

Not only are they sacrificing their domestic league campaign in a dangerous manner as a direct result of their rampant form in both the Copa del Rey and Europa League cup competitions, but the exposure of the Basque giants' players could see Bielsa's squad ripped apart this summer.

The likes of Llorente, Iker Munian and Javi Martinez's valuations are increasing with every game they play in the European spotlight, perhaps leaving the club no choice but to part with their brightest homegrown stars.

Topics:
European News
Football
Premier League

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