As a way of silencing the rumours, it was about as equivocal as it could get. After constant speculation surrounding Fernando Llorente’s future at Juventus, Bianconeri director Beppe Marotta insisted to Tuttosport on Thursday that the club would not cash in on the Bosman capture.
“The player is not for sale. He’s never been available. He will stay here with us. There is great faith in the boy and he is reaching his peak condition. We’re very happy with him and his progress.”
After a difficult start to the season with the Serie A champions, the Spanish striker seems to finally be hitting his stride for Antonio Conte’s men.
Following his move from Athletic Bilbao in the summer, the towering forward struggled initially to impose himself on the Old Lady’s XI, starting just four League games. Conte admitted to reporters in September that “Llorente has done well; he can do even better though and should continue to work.” Just one League goal all term has seen the naysayers continually snipe at the 28-year-old, as his strike partner Carlos Tevez has hit the ground running.
Stories emerged in the Italian, British and Spanish Press that the forward could be jettisoned in January, with Arsenal said to be interested. A pair of fine performances against Real Madrid have seen the Roja international come back into Juve contention and show just why the Scudetto holders were so desperate to sign him from Los Leones in the first place.
Up against the likes of Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, Llorente showed his true class – upsetting the Liga giants with his movement, presence and aerial threat. His poachers’ instinct was in evidence at the Santiago Bernabeu, as he prodded in from close range after Iker Casillas parried away Paul Pogba’s header. Back in Turin, the attacker got the better of Varane in the air, and headed expertly past Casillas.
Those European goals could well be the turning point for the former Athletic man, as he slowly settles into life in Italy. “I normally take a bit of time to hit form and knew I’d have to work a great deal, also because I pretty much missed the whole of last season," the 28-year-old told the official Juventus website in October. "In addition, I needed to settle in and learn the language, and adapting to a new environment is never an easy task for anyone. I’m getting on great here and feel the manager has faith in me, but I know I need to keep working to get back into peak condition.”
With Llorente seemingly adjusting to life on the peninsula, and the Bianconeri getting back to the team that won consecutive Scudetti, we could be about to see a flowering of one of Europe’s best target men.