Fernando Llorente’s move to Chelsea was scuppered because Swansea didn’t want to let him go, rather than any lack of interest on Chelsea’s part, it seems.
It almost seemed quite a left-field transfer idea, to take a man who hadn’t performed exceptionally in a struggling team and bring him into a Chelsea side who were runaway title favourites. When Paul Clement took over in south Wales, though, his quality started to shine through. His pedigree is undoubted, and the fact that Conte was the manager who signed the Spaniard for Juventus lends itself neatly to the idea that Llorente has the trust and respect of the Stamford Bridge boss.
The trust issue might be a major factor in a signing like that, but if Chelsea have a footballing reason for wanting to sign Llorente, the same reason applies to Mario Gomez.
In fact, the two cases are fairly similar. Llorente turned 32 in February, while Gomez will celebrate the same milestone in July. Both started their careers coming through the ranks at mid-sized clubs in their respective countries, and both were then bought by bigger European giants, before being moved on after a few years. Both now find themselves in relegation battles with struggling sides this season.
Gomez, after scoring 26 league goals in 33 game in a league-winning contribution at Turkish side Besiktas last season, is now playing for Wolfsburg who find themselves two points above the relegation play-off spot in the Bundesliga. And although Swansea have rallied under Paul Clement, they too are just three points above relegation.
There are similarities in their styles of play, too. Llorente has managed 11 Premier League goals in 26 games at Swansea, which really isn’t a bad return given the circumstances. He’s managed to do so because he is a clever and experienced striker who has a physical presence and can act as an attacking focal point for his team. As we’ve seen time and time again, too, he can be lethal in the air. The same can be said for Gomez.
But if the similarities are many, there is one difference: their international careers.
Llorente hasn’t scored for Spain since 2010, though he was able to take part in the Vicente del Bosque squads who won the World Cup in South Africa and the European Championships two years later. His international honours are as good as they get, but only seven goals probably speaks more to the fact that he just didn’t fit into Spain’s short-passing, quick-paced style.
Gomez, on the other hand, has made 70 appearances for his country, and even scored his 30th Germany goal this weekend in their game against Azerbaijan.
As we saw at the European Championships in France last summer, Germany’s best performances came when they played with a traditional centre forward in their team, rather than with a false nine system using someone like Mario Gotze.
Gomez, then, can be relied upon in the same way you might expect a team like Swansea to rely on Llorente, and you’d expect the same at Chelsea: a reliance on Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge seems only natural given his ability, but when you look at the backup they have, it requires Conte to change tack.
That may not seem like an overly bad thing. After all, having a plan B is important. But someone to challenge Costa for a place, to replace him when he’s injured, and to give him a rest when he’s off form is important, too. And if Fernando Llorente is a man with the capability to do that, then so too is Gomez – and what’s more, he’s proven with Germany and Bayern Munich that he has the ability and the mental strength to do it when called-upon by the biggest teams.