Back in the summer of 2013, a pair of signings arrived in Turin that Juventus hoped would prove to be the final pieces to complete their already impressive team.
Having won back-to-back league titles, the Bianconeri were still deemed to be lacking the top quality attacking players necessary to carry that domestic dominance into European competition. Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente were seen as the men to do just that and – while they may have ultimately failed to deliver continental success – each enjoyed remarkable debut campaigns on the peninsula.
After his £10 million switch from Manchester City, Tevez has quickly repaid the investment made by the Old Lady, trailing Serie A’s leading goal scorer Ciro Immobile by just a single strike in the last campaign, and having been even more deadly in his second season. A match-winning effort against Empoli last weekend took his 2014-15 tally to 25 in all competitions, coming in just 35 appearances while he has also weighed in with a team-high eight assists.
He may have failed to find the back of the net in the Champions League last year, but the Argentinean has six goals in the elite competition this term, trailing only Luiz Adriano (Shakhtar Donetsk), Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. However, while the former Boca Juniors player has scored in each of his first three competitive games for the club, Llorente struggled, prompting local sports newspaper TuttoSport to openly criticise the Spaniard.
That came with the player having scored just once by mid-October, but a return to his homeland would prove to be the perfect tonic, scoring against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu and repeating the trick when Los Merengues visited Juventus Stadium two weeks later.
He would end the campaign with 18 goals to his name and had fully established himself as a regular in Antonio Conte’s first choice XI, a line-up the coach selected at every available opportunity.
Conte would of course leave the club last summer, replaced by Max Allegri who opts to rotate the side much more often and the results are clear to see, with the club currently no fewer than fourteen points clear in the Serie A standings. Having overcome last year’s embarrassing Group Stage exit to reach the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, they also recorded an impressive Coppa Italia win over Fiorentina this week to reach the final of that competition.
But that approach has meant Llorente is no longer a permanent fixture alongside Tevez, although again a look at the performances of the various attacking players vindicates the decisions made by the new boss. Alessandro Matri was given the nod against the Tuscan side and opened the scoring after twenty minutes, proving that once again the coach had chosen the right combination of attacking players for a particular fixture.
Similarly, Álvaro Morata has made an incredible impression in his first six months in Turin, but to say Llorente has ‘lost his place’ to the 22-year-old is hugely misleading. The truth is that Allegri has simply tailored his team selection to the opposition in any given match up, deploying the younger, faster Morata when seeking to play on the counter-attack against a side that might dominate possession against the Bianconeri.
That was perhaps most evident when they took on Borussia Dortmund last month, with the Real Madrid youth product netting in each leg to help his team record an emphatic 5-1 aggregate victory. Yet in games Juve have been expected to control, the coach has often turned to Llorente, and he has turned in some excellent displays, leading the line and linking play as Juve’s superb midfield pushes forward to join the attack.
He has scored seven goals in all competitions and has again been unfairly criticised, with his holdup play, incredible first touch and unselfish work off the ball constantly overlooked.
When the chances fall in his path, Llorente has proven more than capable of tucking them away, but there is a growing feeling he may be doing so for a different club next term. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the 30-year-old is wanted by Tottenham Hotspur, and a sale at around £15 million this summer could come to suit all parties involved.
It would present the player with a fresh challenge and a likely pay rise, while providing the North London club with a proven and experienced international calibre striker.
For Juventus, it would move on an aging player who no longer commands a regular place in the side, and also provide funds to bring in Simone Zaza.
The Bianconeri have an option on the Sassuolo striker - as discussed here - and he would be seemingly an ideal replacement for Llorente, who could well be running out at White Hart Lane when the 2015-16 season gets underway.
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