After starring in the Europa League this season, Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente is the subject of considerable interest from Manchester City, who are prepared to meet his release clause of £29m.
Llorente, 27, has been hot property for well over 18 months now, but his performances in Europe this year have really caught the eye of the big teams on the continent.
City have of course just sealed their first Premier League title and will be looking to build on that success by luring top talent from across the globe and Llorente will certainly fit that category. Llorente will be the main striker for Spain at Euro 2012 and could even boost his stock there, so City seemingly want to tie up the deal before the tournament begins in June.
As a regular watcher of La Liga, I can tell you that Llorente really is the real deal. He’s your typical target man; strong and great in the air, but he also possesses great technique (see his goal in the 2nd leg of the Manchester United tie) and he isn’t particularly slow either. You’d have to say that he seems to fit perfectly with the English game.
In terms of how he’d fit at Manchester City, I’d expect Edin Dzeko to be sold if Llorente is bought. Whilst Llorente has more bulk, I can’t see Mancini keeping two ‘target men’ figures in his squad. Llorente is the better all round player and would be a fantastic asset to any team – he’s your classic No. 9 and will score goals wherever he is.
To some extent I’m surprised he could be leaving though. Athletic famously employ a ‘Basque-only’ signing policy. Bilbao is in the heart of the Basque Country and Athletic operate under a rule where they can only sign Basque born players. Llorente has repeatedly announced his undying love for the club that he’s been a part of since he was 11 years old and that he didn’t want to leave the club. In interviews last season he said he didn’t want to go to Real Madrid despite the media claiming it was a ‘done deal’. Llorente stayed and fired his side to the Europa League final.
Is the time right to move on though? Athletic have impressed under Bielsa but how far can he take them? The Copa Del Rey final is on the horizon and represents a brilliant chance to win some silverware – it’s just a shame it’s against Barcelona. City can guarantee Llorente Champions League football and the opportunity to compete for league titles, which is something Athletic currently can’t offer their prized possession.
Llorente would be a fantastic signing City and I’m sure he would set the Premier League alight, just as Sergio Aguero – another La Liga import – did for City this season.
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