There are a number of high profile players with expiring contracts in 2013 that the Gunners have been linked with, and although majority of the rumours may not fruitate into anything concrete, over the next week we will be writing some articles about some of the possible transfer targets for January. After one of the most prolific attackers in Europe in Huntelaar, here we go with one of the biggest contract rebels in Europe Fernando Llorente, attacker of Athletic Bilbao.
Fernando Llorente – Contract expires Summer 2013 [Part 2]
Athletic Bilbao had an excellent European campaign last season. Despite the fact the Europa League is not exactly No.1 priority to top clubs in Europe, their performances in both matches against FAnchester United in which they had to win by a large margin drew attention and they received praises for their domination over one of the biggest favourites in the Europa League at that time. The team that have a specific policy that allows only Basques to play for it, played exciting football and reached the final of the competition before losing to Atletico Madrid in the all-Spanish final.
Even before Athletic’s eye-catching campaign, one Basque was in many scouts’ note-books. That man is Fernando Llorente, a tall striker (1,95 m) that was a member of the Spanish WC 2010 and EURO 2012 winning side though he participated only 32 minutes at WC while he didn’t play at all during the EURO’s. Still, his performances for Athletic Bilbao put him in the spotlight for a transfer elsewhere.
Llorente’s contract is expiring in the summer and he doesn’t have any intention to sign a new one. He’s been linked with a lot of European clubs – mostly from the Premiership – and it is very unlikely he is going to sign a new deal. Llorente’s squad status is far from ideal given that the striker has been used mostly as substitute which explains a bit why he’s scored just one goal in Primera this season.
I’ve had some magnificent years and I hope to be remembered as a player who gave everything when he was here.
It is obvious that the Spanish target man will leave Athletic but it is unknown which club will be able to rely on his qualities in years to come. Llorente is a striker with very good movement (which is important in regards to his height) that scores a lot of goals using his aerial domination. Last season he scored 14 goals (out of 29) with his head but he can also use both of his feet (though, he is much better with his right foot). His goal against FAnchester United last season wasn’t exactly a typical Llorente-goal (the volley after a 50 meter-pass isn’t something that you expect from that type of player) but it proves Llorente has ability to score in many different ways.
Juventus are reported to be the favourites to land Llorente. The Italian side already has one of the best goalkeepers in the world, one of the strongest defensive line-ups, a world-class midfielder in Andrea Pirlo and all they need to mount a serious Champions’ League challenge is a world-class striker. Given that Italian clubs are not in a position to spend a lot of money on fees, Llorente is an ideal option given that his price in January would be much lower than for any other striker of that quality without contract issues which leaves space open for a higher wage as well.
Chelsea are always involved in transfer speculations and the Chavs need an additional striker given that they rely on Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge while Romelu Lukaku is on loan at WBA at least until January. However, it is unlikely they will pursuit Llorente given that Falcao and Cavani are more attractive players and I guess that Abramovich prefers to sign one of them no matter what.
The Spuds are also mentioned as a possible Llorente destination. They don’t have many attackers in disposal so it would be logical from them to try to sign the Spaniard. However, they already signed a lot of players (Dempsey, Dembele, Vertonghen, Lloris, Adebawhore) and it is questionable whether Andre Villas-Boas (or someone else if the Portuguese gets sacked before January) will have permission from Daniel Levy to spend more money on new players.
Liverpool are also rumoured to be interested in Llorente though it seems they are more into Walcott and Huntelaar. They need a striker given that Luis Suarez is the only one that is currently at the disposal of Brendan Rogers. Suarez is one of the best strikers in the league at the moment but Liverpool would benefit from a signing of Llorente’s stature and he would most certainly make them a very serious Top 4 contender.
And, as always, “Zucker kommt zu letzt”. Arsenal are one of the clubs that have been mostly linked with the Spanish attacker. We failed to find the net in matches against Sunderland, Stoke and Norwich where we won just two points out of a possible nine. While a nine-point-gap between us and leaders Manchester City probably has something to do with the fact we won just one point out of a possible nine in matches against Manchester City, FAnchester United and Chelsea. The Llorente-rumour is a persistent one despite the fact Olivier Giroud has scored four goals in last four matches. It seems that people don’t believe Giroud can replace Van Persie by himself so they link us with a lot of attackers. Llorente’s unsettled status, low price in January (or no fee next summer), established reputation in Primera and goal-scoring record makes the Spanish striker an ideal signing for Arsenal as well.
It is very hard to say whether we should go for Llorente. The fact he is a member of the Spanish national side is the best possible recommendation. As I mentioned in one of my earlier articles, Spanish players are the best players around and their impact in new clubs is astonishing (Michu at Swansea, Mata at Chelsea, Silva at City, our own Cazorla and Arteta…). Llorente would probably settle pretty fast in England, especially at Arsenal with support from Cazorla and Arteta, and he would turn out to be a great addition if we sign him. He is in his best years given that he is only 27. He would be eligible for the Champions’ League if we qualify for the Knockout Stages and sign him.
However, there are some things that makes this transfer unlikely. First of all, it seems Giroud has finally found himself and signing a player with similar characteristics could unsettle him or break his rhythm. Second of all, Walcott’s case will determine which kind of player we are going to sign. Third, it seems we will bring Henry again on loan. Fourth, Henry’s loans seem to be only kind of January transfers Wenger is ready to go for.
Anyway, I would welcome Llorente in January.
One interesting trivia: if we sign him, we will have our own Fernando Torres given that Llorente’s full name is Fernando Llorente Torres!