Fernando Llorente is probably a bad signing for Tottenham Hotspur. He is old, immobile, extremely limited, and plays counter to Spurs’ preferred brand of football.
And I am very, very excited to see him on our team.
Unlike many of our fans, I came to football later in life. I started watching Spurs back in 2010, as Gareth Bale was blooming, Luka Modric was pulling the strings in our midfield, and Roman Pavlyuchenko was single handedly reviving the Russian space program with his wayward shots. While that team and those players will always have a special place in my heart, so will Fernando Llorente.
As Spurs looked to become a Champions League fixture in 2011, Harry Redknapp’s number one priority was upgrading our striker position. So one fall, he made some withdrawals from Rosie’s offshore bank account and went to Spain looking for a striker. We heard names like Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan, and Roberto Soldado, but all the rumors amounted to nothing. Following that year, we turned our eyes back back towards Spain, this time to the Basque country.
This is when I first became aware of Athletic Club Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente. Tall, able to muscle out defenders, and capable of heading the living crap out of a football, Llorente was every bit the stereotype of a Basque footballer. He wasn’t fast, but he was smart. Broadly speaking, his game was fairly similar to what we see out of Kane today, but a bit more focused on being an aerial threat. Under Marcelo Bielsa in the 2011/12 season, Llorente scored a record high 29 goals in all competitions as he lead Bilbao to finals in the Europa League and the Copa Del Rey. He looked like an absolute monster and exactly what Tottenham were missing. We never ended up getting him.
At the end of the day, it was probably for the best that we didn’t get him after 2012. The season under Bielsa that had done so much to impress Spurs had at least partially ruined him. His manager absolutely ran Llorente into the ground that year. According to Jonathan Wilson in Inverting the Pyramid, by the time that Llorente arrived at Spain’s training camp for the Euros that year, he was so shattered that Vincente Del Bosque “...knew immediately that he would play no part in the tournament.” And he never really recovered from that. He played well for Juventus, but was never the same player he was at Bilbao under Bielsa. He eventually became a rotation player, moved to Sevilla, and finally became a substitute striker for Swansea.
Yet for me, he remained a semi mythic figure who represented Spurs’ unrealized potential. For years, he was the first purchase I made in FIFA’s career mode when I played with Spurs. He was always that striker who could put Spurs over the top. Even as I saw unimpressive performance after mediocre showing from him at Juve and Swans, for me, he still embodied the excitement and hope that every football fan associates with the transfer deadline. I don’t know why. You never forget your first, I suppose.
It is worth pointing out that he’s still a useful player. Since 2014/15, in all club competitions, he’s had about 3.3 shots per 90 and .75 goals per 90 as a sub (though just 700 minutes), and 2.1 shots per 90 and .38 goals per 90 as a starter. At Swansea, he was effective as a battering ram style target man who provided a real aerial threat.
At this point in career Llorente probably offers Spurs a halfway decent option against packed in defenses, particularly if we try to attack in the air. He can be an extremely poor man’s Giroud. In 2017, Fernando Llorente at Tottenham will never live up to my 2013 expectations, but that’s ok. I have no expectations at this point so I can’t possibly be let down. I get to see one of the first things I ever wanted to see as a football fan become a reality. I get to spend an entire two weeks being happy that Spurs signed an aging striker who’s probably not the best fit for our team. And for right now, that’s enough. One of the first things I ever wanted to see as a Spurs fan has finally happened. At this point anything else is gravy.