Italian champions Juventus have emerged as the club most likely to sign Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente after reports the club have begun negotiations with the striker.
Llorente is off contract at the end of the season, and according to Tuttosport (h/t Joe Wright of Goal.com), has already stated that he will not be re-signing with the Spanish club—leaving him open for a potential free-transfer at the end of the season.
And Juventus, having been linked with a potential move (via Goal.com) for the forward for some time now, have approached the Spanish club regarding a transfer.
Bilbao posted the following statement (translation) on their official website:
Juventus Football Club have communicated on January 3, 2012 to Athletic Club that, knowing Fernando Llorente will conclude his time on June 30, 2012 in our club, they will initiate negotiations with the said player to incorporate him into its squad.
What the statement is not particularly clear on is as to when the negotiations for Llorente will begin—be them now or on June 30, when his contract ends.
The most logical assessment would be now, with contract negotiations known to take some time to potentially iron out all the details, but also because Juventus would love to wrap up a deal before any other potential suitors can steal him away.
Llorente clearly wants out of Marcelo Bielsa's side following a reported falling-out with the manager and is definitely not returning to the club next season.
In that time, he has netted 115 goals from his 317 appearances but has received significantly less minutes at the club this season following his decision to leave. Despite his caliber and skills, Llorente hasn't started a match since November—a game Bilbao won 2-0, with the striker scoring a goal and creating an assist in the process.
There is little doubt that Llorente would be a huge success at Juventus, as he would any other club, with the Italian champions possessing a strong squad already that would be put to even better use by the introduction of a strong forward like Llorente.
The likes of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Fabio Quagliarella would all benefit greatly from the introduction of Llorente, should he arrive at the club.
The Italian giants won the Serie A competition in 2012, and are well on their way to repeating that success in 2013. Should they sign Llorente to the club over the winter or summer transfer windows, there's a real chance they could continuing their winning ways in 2014 and beyond.
Interesting to see how this one plays out over the next few months.
Should Juventus continue to pursue Fernando Llorente?
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