Analysis

Marcos Llorente to Manchester United: A tempting move but unlikely

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One of the most confusing things in world football, over the past decade, has been to gain an understanding, regarding why a player would switch sides to a Premier League team even though his parent team are top of the table in their national league. The answer often is money.

Premier League clubs are cash-rich and they leverage this factor during negotiations with young and bright players from clubs around Europe, and more often than not, it works. This method, although proven and successful, is coming to an end as players these days consider if they would suit the style of the club and if they would actually receive substantial game-time.

This has led to several deals being called off, for example – Paulo Dybala to Tottenham; Isco to Chelsea; Nabil Fekir to Arsenal; Timo Werner to Liverpool; Willian to Tottenham and the list does not end there. However, a similar case has emerged in the form of Marcos Llorente to Manchester United.

Marcos Llorente, now 26, is playing some of his best football in Spain for Atletico Madrid, who although not in the best form are still atop the La Liga table. Llorente joined the Los Colchoneros from their city rivals, in Real Madrid two years ago.

Llorente’s most important contribution last season was the two goals he scored in extra-time against the then holders of the Champions League, Liverpool, in their Champions League Round of 16 tie. It showed how much Llorente can provide to this Atletico team and Simeone this season has made Llorente a key and consistent member of his starting XI.

The Spaniard has paid off Simeone’s faith in him as he has come up with 9 goals and 8 assists in the league this season from not the most advanced areas on the field. Llorente has played all over the pitch for Atletico this season and to come up with those stats in spite of his ever-changing role in the team is a feat to admire.

WHY NOT MANCHESTER UNITED?

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While Marcos Llorente is a terrific player and Manchester United are indeed interested, this deal is highly unlikely. Llorente has played at right-wing-back, central midfielder, right-winger and as a second striker this season. This tells you that he can provide United with a bunch of roles that he can fulfill, but Llorente does not suit the way Solskjaer operates.

Manchester United are a counter-attacking team that relies on the brilliance of Rashford, Martial and Bruno Fernandes to win games, while against the ‘lesser’ teams, United finds it hard at times to break down their opponents. The answer to this would be a creative playmaker or a box-to-box midfielder. Marcos Llorente is neither of these and the system will only flaunt his flaws.

The 26-year-old is at his best when he has open spaces and is within 10 to 15 yards of the goal. In the Premier League, the only people who can afford to play this kind of role are penalty box strikers. While Llorente has the advantage of being defensively resolute, it satisfies only 1 facet of Solskjaer’s midfield dilemmas.

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Llorente, going forward, is a strong runner, great crosser of the ball, has a knack of taking accurate long shots and is a great threat in the box as well, whereas defensively, he can be a dogged defender and will fight till the last minute to get a hold of the ball. Manchester United does lack a player of such ilk, but there is no space in United’s starting XI to facilitate such a  player. It is a modern-day conundrum most clubs face when they have a bunch of options in their squad and they fail to find a way to keep everybody happy.

Moreover, Llorente’s release clause is a whopping €120 million, and activating it, would make Marcos Llorente Manchester United’s most expensive transfer in their history. It is very unlikely that United will pay that sum for him, but if history is any evidence, Atletico only releases their players for the entire sum of their release clauses. The likes of Lucas Hernandez, Thomas Partey, Rodri and Antoine Griezmann were allowed to leave the club only after their humongous release clauses were paid off in their entirety.

Marcos Llorente’s contract expires in 2024, meaning, Atletico would not be under any obligation to accept any cut-throat-price for the midfielder. While Manchester United may be interested, it just looks like one of those deals which will only consist of rumours and no actual negotiations.

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