Following a difficult debut campaign with Tottenham Hotspur, Vincent Janssen left to join Fenerbahce on a season-long loan deal last summer and manager Mauricio Pochettino was tasked with finding another striker to effectively play back-up to star man Harry Kane.
The Argentine boss and the north London outfit opted to sign Swansea City striker Fernando Llorente – rated at £7.2m by Transfermarkt – with the giant centre-forward scoring 15 goals in 35 appearances in all competitions for the Welsh club in his first campaign on British shores.
The Spaniard, who was 32 at the time, looked to be the ideal alternative to Kane given his experience in playing both in the Champions League for Juventus and the fact that he had adapted so quickly to life in the Premier League previously.
It will never be easy for Spurs to find a player that is happy to know that they will sit on the substitutes’ bench most weeks and play second fiddle to the England international, and they would have been pleased to get Llorente in the end.
However, the 6ft 4in centre-forward has struggled for form and has lacked that confidence in front of goal that his predecessor Janssen also did, scoring just five goals in 29 appearances in all competitions – with three of those goals coming at home to Rochdale in the FA Cup – and he has received plenty of criticism from his own fans as a result.
While the majority of those outings have come from the bench in the Premier League and the Champions League, Llorente also failed to score in four starts in the FA Cup against AFC Wimbledon, Newport County and the Dale before he finally hit a treble against the League One strugglers in the second leg at Wembley – much to the surprise of the Spurs supporters.
It provided the player with some much-needed respite and would have been a huge relief for the fans, who watched Kane suffer an ankle injury against Bournemouth 11 days later that is set to keep him out until the end of April.
While the setback came after Tottenham had already been knocked out of the Champions League by Juventus, it came at a crucial moment in the FA Cup as the north London outfit look to end a decade drought without a major trophy, while they need to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League in order to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition once again.
Kane is likely to be absent for the FA Cup semi-final tie against Manchester United at Wembley and the Premier League fixtures against Chelsea, Stoke City, Manchester City and Watford in that time – as well as a potential rearranged clash against Newcastle United – and they could be crucial games in their bid to finish in the top four given they are just five points above fifth-place Chelsea with eight top flight encounters still to play.
Despite Kane limping off in the first half of the 4-1 win against Bournemouth – when his team was trailing 1-0 – Pochettino opted to move the in-form Son Heung-Min up top and bring on Erik Lamela rather than a natural centre-forward replacement in Llorente.
The Spaniard would have hoped to get the nod against former club Swansea in the FA Cup quarter-finals the following weekend, but he once again had to make do with a cameo from the substitutes’ bench and Son was preferred up top with Lucas Moura, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen behind him.
Nevertheless, Pochettino may feel that the 6ft 4in centre-forward may be able to offer them something a little different with his height and physicality against the likes of Chelsea and City in Premier League matches that they won’t want to lose, but they will need to play to his strengths in order to get the best out of him.
Llorente certainly hasn’t been at his best and hasn’t impressed Tottenham supporters so far following his summer move to Wembley, but they now could be relying on him to help them secure the Champions League return they are desperate to secure between now and May.