Rumours have been doing the rounds for weeks now that Fernando Llorente won’t be signing a new deal with Athletic Bilbao. The rumours, initially ill-founded, have since been confirmed by the club’s president Josu Urrutia, who insists that the star striker won’t be sold for anything less than the striker’s current buy-out clause of £28.2m.
Furthermore, Urrutia is adamant that should the asking price not be met, Llorente is unlikely to be sold this summer, with the Athletic supremo confirming that he will leave on a free next season unless the fee meets his requirements. Sound familiar? It’s a scenario similar to that of Robin van Persie with Arsenal.
The Dutchman, like Llorente, has refused to sign a new deal with the Gunners and is, like his Spanish counterpart, entering the final 12 months of his contract. The news will come as a massive blow to Los Leones, especially since the 27-year-old enjoyed his most prolific campaign to date, netting 30 goals as Athletic secured passage to the Europa League and Copa Del Rey final, eventually walking away in second place in both competitions.
The focus on both tournaments saw the Basque outfit finish the season in a disappointing 10th place in La Liga, but participation in the Copa Del Rey final meant Europa League qualification was guaranteed. However, his value will have dropped following his participation in the qualifying rounds of the European tournament in the 3-1 win over Slaven Belupo Koprivnica.
Nevertheless, that is unlikely to deter potential suitors. Llorente has been attracting interest from across the continent following a string of fine performances and any team would be lucky to obtain a player of his quality to lead any front-line. Juventus are reported to be in advanced negotiations for his signature, while a number of Premier League teams will surely show a keen interest following Monday’s statement; it’s effectively a come and get me plea to top clubs around Europe. Whether the interest is followed up remains to be seen, but if available, the list of potential suitors for Llorente is likely to be a long one.