Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente has revealed his interest in signing for a Premier League club when his contract at the Spanish club expires next summer. Which EPL team will sign the Spaniard?
Fernando Llorente has been in the news since he refused to sign a new deal with Athletic Bilbao earlier this season. The Spanish international is into the last year of his contract and is free to talk to other clubs in January regarding a move at the end of the current season.
Llorente has been one of Bilbao’s key player for the past three seasons. He has scored 69 goals for Bilbao (in all competitions) in his last three seasons. His continuous improvement as a player has already earned him 21 international caps for the Spanish national team.
But this season, Llorente has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Ever since he rejected Bilbao’s offer of a contract extension, he has gone into the bad books of manager Marcelo Bielsa and the Bilbao fans. The Spanish media hasn’t helped his cause either; the press portrayed him a traitor and the fans, who adored him for so long, started to jeer him on the pitch.
Llorente’s relation with Bielsa has gone downhill as well. The Spanish striker has started in one league game for Bilbao so far. Llorente has been out-casted by the manager and the fans; at a certain point he was even asked to train with the youth squads. Fernando Llorente’s days as a Bilbao player are numbered.
Italian giants Juventus were one of the first clubs to show interest in the 27-year-old forward. Llorente has -tated his admiration for the Turin based club, who are reportedly preparing to make him their best paid player with by offering him a bumper contract. In fact reports from Italian media stated that Llorente has already reached an agreement with Juventus regarding a move next summer, but the Spaniard has rubbished such claims.
Just when it looked like Llorente is destined to play in Serie A, the striker has publicly stated his desire to play in the English Premier League.
“I really like the Premier League and I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that it’s a league which appeals to me a lot. You never know. It’s one good option in terms of my future but we’ll have to wait until the end of the season to see what happens.
“It is true that we are approaching the date when I can sign for other clubs. I’m trying to keep it so that it is something which is managed by my brother and my representatives. That leaves me to focus on my football and help my team, Athletic, and nothing else, maintain focus.” – Llorente was quoted in Skysports.
Llorente has also crushed rumours regarding any pre-agreement with Juventus. The lanky forward said –
“No. That’s totally untrue. I think it’s normal that people talk about these things, but ultimately you have to respect the rules. I am an Athletic player and, until 1 January, I cannot sign with any other team.”
Three English clubs have been linked with Llorente this season – Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Such stiff competition would ensure that Llorente won’t be sold for a cut-price deal, despite him being in the last year of his current contract.
The Gunners are in desperate need of a striker, but despite been heavily linked with Llorente, Bilbao’s valuation is sure to put off Wenger, who is unlikely to pay such a huge sum of money for a single player. The Arsenal board has repeatedly stated that cash will be made available to Wenger to spend, but even if Wenger meets Bilbao’s transfer demands, Llorente’s high wages will be a cause for concern. Arsenal are unlikely to break their current wage structure to pay Llorente above £120,000 per week.
Off-late Arsenal have been linked with a much cheaper option in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. For Arsene Wenger, who prioritizes ‘value for money’ deals, Huntelaar is more viable option than Llorente.
Tottenham, like Arsenal, lack depth in their striking department. Jermaine Defoe and Adebayor are currently the only options available for AVB at White Hart Lane. With Adebayor’s future at the club in doubt, Tottenham will be looking to bolster their attacking options in January.
Spurs’ wage structure, unlike Arsenal, is flexible and they can afford Llorente’s wage bill. But the biggest drawback that AVB will face in convincing Llorente to join the London club is their lack of Champions League football. Llorente is unlikely to join a side playing in Europa league.
Manchester City is the other likely destination for the Spanish international. The reigning Premier League champions tracked Llorente during the summer transfer window, but any deal failed to materialize.
Dzeko and Mario Balotelli’s future at the Manchester club is in doubts and Mancini is sure to bolster his attack in January to reignite his side faltering title challenge. Llorente would fit the bill perfectly at City, who missed out on Robin van Persie to their neighbours at the start of this season.
So Spurs and City looks the most likely destination for Fernando Llorente in January. Bilbao are unlikely to hold onto the Spaniard any longer considering he would leave for free next season. Fernando Llorente has all the attributes to succeed in England as a striker as the Spanish invasion in English game continues.