Amid the almost unprecedented transfer mêlée that accompanied the final hours of the transfer window at the back end of January, one Spanish striker was attracting attention from across Europe. Unlike another Spanish Fernando, Fernando Llorente has as yet resisted the big money move and despite interest from illustrious suitors, Liverpool and Tottenham, remained with Athletic Bilbao as the clocks struck twelve.
Fernando Llorente’s stock has risen dramatically over the last 18 months. No doubt aided by his presence in the incredibly successful Spanish national squad, the striker has been in particularly impressive form this season for Athletic Bilbao, prompting considerable interest from major players across Europe.
While the Spaniard is yet to have a genuinely prolific campaign, his return of 15 league goals in 26 appearances so far this term, suggest with a stronger team around him that he could achieve substantial goal scoring feats in the coming seasons. Powerful in the air, and with no small amount of technical ability, the chances of him starting next season at the San Mames stadium appear remote.
His detractors may argue that a move to England, which is looking more and more likely, would be one that would need to catch light immediately. At 26, his peak years are fast approaching and the time that may be needed to help the former Baskonia man adjust to a new league could be significant.
His scoring record for the Spanish national team is impressive. Seven goals in 13 appearances suggest a man that can cut it at the highest level, however a £30 million price tag, would have in previous years landed you more evidence of success than the hope of reasonable promise. After all, Llorente made only a solitary appearance for Spain during their successful World Cup campaign last summer- a half hour cameo against Paraguay the only reward for a man stuck behind the woefully out of form, Fernando Torres in the pecking order.
In fairness, the man who scored his first international goal against England in February 2009, has played a far more prominent role in Spanish fixtures since the World Cup, scoring twice against Lithuania and once against Scotland in key Euro 2012 qualifiers.
This, however, is indicative of the market conditions several top clubs have found themselves dealing with. In an environment where Andy Carroll is worth £35 million, the asking price for Llorente is not exorbitant- particularly when there are several key interested English rivals who appear set on landing the striker at a similar price.
Liverpool, it would appear, look set to end their interest in signing another forward, having landed two during the final hours of the transfer window. Manchester United have become the latest club to be linked to the player, although with Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez all impressing at different points this season a move to Old Trafford would certainly be a competitive one.
Tottenham look best placed to land the Spaniard, although a potential lack of Champions League football next season could be a fly in the ointment if Llorente decides that at 26 he cannot afford to wait for exposure to the highest level of European club football.
Whichever way you look at it, Llorente’s star is most certainly on the rise, and should he continue to perform for both club and country, the clamour for his signature will become one of the stories of the summer.
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