Danny Mills reckons that the injury-enforced absence of Diego Llorente will hurt Leeds United at the start of the 2021/22 season.
Mills, who played for the Whites between 1999 and 2004, was speaking to Football Insider about the 27-year-old.
Llorente was forced off midway through the first half of a friendly against Real Betis at the end of July, and a source close to the player has said that he faces two to three weeks out with a leg muscle injury.
While the problem is ‘not major’, it could rule Llorente out of Leeds’ clashes with Manchester United and Everton later this month.
The Spaniard struggled with injuries during his maiden season in Yorkshire, missing 13 games with groin issues and a further month with a hamstring problem (via Transfermarkt). He was limited to 14 Premier League starts, averaging 2.2 successful aerial duels, 2.3 tackles and 2.5 clearances per game (via WhoScored).
Mills is not only fearful of the immediate impact of Llorente’s absence, but also of the long-term repercussions of an early lay-off.
“It is a big blow,” he said to Football Insider. “He’s a real quality player that holds that team together.
“It looks like he’s going to miss the start of the season which is a strange situation.
“He needs to get fit and play in a run of games. We’ve seen before once the season gets underway and you’re playing catch up trying to play your way fit without a proper pre-season it’s tough and really difficult to do.”
When Llorente’s injuries abated in the latter part of last season, he enjoyed a fine run of form and grew in stature. The 27-year-old even earned a spot in WhoScored‘s Team of the Month for April.
However, availability is just as important as ability and this is a stinging setback for the Whites. It’s a small problem, yes, but it doesn’t bode particularly well for the season ahead, and as Mills notes, it has interrupted the process of ramping up to full fitness.
In the short term, it could well make Leeds’ tough early assignments even trickier.
In other news, Leeds have tabled a offer for this centre-forward target.
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