Fernando Llorente’s career needs to be kick-started, and the Premier League is the perfect destination to do so.
Llorente has been a spectator for a lot of this season after dragging his heels on a new contract, and Bilbao will look to move him on before his current deal ends.
It’s impossible to really judge him based on this year’s performances, so we must look back to last year, when he scored 29 goals across all competitions, including 17 in La Liga.
Although he could be a success in Serie A, and Juventus would enable him to progress, the EPL will provide a real test of his skill by virtue of being a totally different experience.
The English league is a much more physical test of a player, and those who have flourished overseas often find it difficult to adjust. Llorente has an advantage here, standing at 6’5”.
He won’t get dominated by centre-backs and can hold the ball up well, meaning he’ll link up well with teammates. His close control is excellent, and he shows good touch when laying off the ball.
These are all attributes that will help him succeed in the EPL, but it’s his finishing that will ultimately ensure his success. Llorente can finish with both feet and has an instinct that’s impossible to teach.
Although he doesn’t have blistering pace, Llorente will actually find this to his benefit in the Premier League. His physicality means he can buy the time he needs to scan the field and pick his pass or shot.
Of course, it’s arguable that these attributes would serve him well in any league, which is true, to an extent.
However, if Llorente is thinking purely in terms of career advancement, proving that he can make the jump from La Liga to the Premier League will give him a platform that he won’t get anywhere else. He will show that he can flourish in two leagues with constrasting styles.
Adaptability is a very attractive trait in a footballer, and Llorente would immediately become a more valuable player.
Fernando Torres will testify to that, and although his struggles at Chelsea show that success is always dependent on the team to a certain extent, the success he enjoyed at Liverpool elevated his status to a new level.
Let’s wheel out a cliché for a second. Could Llorente repeat his past success in January at Stoke?
His talent won’t be the thing holding him back, that’s for sure. The problem lies with his attitude.
Refusing to sign a new contract and then finishing out his Bilbao career by pouting isn’t going to win him any supporters. The top teams in the EPL thrive on rotation and depth, so Llorente may find himself at a club where he isn’t the automatic first choice.
How he responds to this will define him as a player. If he takes it as a challenge and uses it for motivation, he’ll go far in England.
However, if he complains and under-performs, the fans will turn on him. The difference between worship and abuse is often defined by a player’s allegiance to the team, regardless of circumstances.
Fans have no time for divas, especially when players arrive for big money and then complain. The money in football grows in inverse proportion to the wealth of the nation, so playing for the paycheck isn’t enough.
Llorente needs to prove to owners and fans that not only is he prepared to work for his success, but he’s also prepared for it be hard.
If he can do that, his natural ability will do the rest.