With the recurrence of Diego Costa’s hamstring injury threatening his inclusion in del Bosque’s Spain squad we have a look at one of the contenders to replace him. Fernando Llorente had so often been tipped to be the next great Spanish striker, his career seemed to have stagnated somewhat at Sevilla. At 29, Llorente is no longer the bright young prospect he once was, however he has proven himself to be a successful acquisition to the Juventus side.
Last season Juventus were clearly lacking some fire power up front, to counter act that Carlos Tevez was signed for around £10m from Manchester City, but in arguably one of the best signings of the season Juve secured the services of Fernando Llorente on a free transfer from Sevilla.
Between them Tevez and Llorente contributed 35 of Juventus’ 80 league goals, of those Tevez bagged 25 with Llorente contributing 19. Llorente was the 8th highest scorer in Serie A this season. Llorente only managed 4 starts for Sevilla last season, with 22 substitute appearances, and only managed 4 goals; the year before he managed 17 in 24 starts. He doesn’t seem to have taken any time to adjust to life in Italy, often we’d expect a period for a player to find his feet at a new club but that hasn’t been the case with Llorente. If it is the case then next year he’ll be even tougher to handle.
A long side his goal scoring acumen Llorente has also provided 5 assists this season, more than he managed in the past 3 La Liga seasons combined. He was creating an average of 1.4 chances for a teammate per game. Part of that is down to playing alongside better players, but part of it is due to a higher level of confidence. That’s something that’s been reflected in all aspects of his play.
Notably, Llorente won 2.8 headers per game this season, only Chiellini managed more in the Juventus squad. His aerial presence, strength in the air and on the ball makes Llorente a real handful to play against, this is shown by the fact he was fouled an average of 1.1 times per game.
There will have been some who would have questioned the signing of Llorente at the start of the season, given his apparent decline in recent years, however he has gone a long way to proving his doubters wrong this season and if he continues in his current vein of form next year will surely cement himself as a fan favourite. His performances have been more than good enough to earn himself a place in the provisional Spain squad, whether or not he makes the cut remains to be seen, but based on his Serie A performances it wouldn’t be an unjust choice and he could end up being the man to replace Diego Costa.
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Statistics courtesy of: WhoScored