Fernando Llorente has agreed to move to Serie A and to Juventus this coming summer at the end of his Athletic Bilbao contract. In the latest issue of Soccer Italia, Rob Paton reflects on the decision and why the Bianconeri may have finally found their missing piece to the puzzle.
“Leave now, Spanish b*****d!” The message was crude, scrawled on Athletic Bilbao’s club shop last summer in graffiti. Large letters smeared in red paint, it was also clear. Fernando Llorente’s star at San Mames had fallen, with a break down in contract renewal negotiations with the club signalling a break down in relations between the striker and his fans.
That was in the pre-season, when reports first emerged of the possibility of Athletic losing Llorente and, since, the 2012-13 season has proven a difficult one. Aritz Aduriz has taken his place in the starting line-up, Coach Marcelo Bielsa has been caught on camera berating him in training and sending him to the showers early, his own club have reported on him of his ‘refusal’ to attend a Press conference when requested and they have warned him over future conduct when he has criticised them in interviews.
His decision to not renew his contract at Athletic beyond its June 2013 expiry – and subsequent confirmation of an agreement with Juventus – has also placed a divide among the San Mames faithful. Where some have still continued to chant his name in support like seasons before, others have been pictured at training with banners telling him to ‘leave now’ and chanting in games for him to go to hell.