Man City, Liverpool & Tottenham Target Fernando Llorente Again Hints At Athletic Bilbao Departure

Spanish international drops biggest hint yet that he wants to leave Bilbao.

“I can not guarantee that I will still be with Athletic in 2013. In January I’m free to talk and I will consider all my options. But I want to forget about that and help the team. The less people talk about me the better,” Llorente said.

The Spanish international, who was included in his country’s Euro 2012 squad, had looked set to move to Italian champions Juventus during the summer transfer window and although the move eventually fell through, Turin could still be the striker’s destination in January.

However, Premier League sides Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have also all been heavily linked with the striker in recent months.

Llorente has been at Athletic since 2005 and has admitted he is hurt by the fans at San Mames who have turned against him, and believes they should understand his decision.

“It hurts that people have turned against me. It hurts that they doubt me, I’ve always given everything for Athletic.

“Even if at some point in my career I don’t play with Athletic, it will always be my team. It’s personal. The club have given me everything, it’s where I grew up from the time I was a boy.

“If for whatever reason I leave here, nobody should be annoyed with me. It’s a personal decision that people should respect.”

SOURCE: Four Four Two

The news that Spain international Fernando Llorente is still open to leaving Athletic Bilbao is likely to interest a whole host of Premier League clubs.

The 27-year-old has just one year remaining on his current deal at the San Mames and has admitted he could start discussions with suitors as soon as January.

Top clubs across Europe will be interested in the Basque forward but a move to England seems the most likely outcome. Italians Juventus tried to sign Llorente in the summer but as with many of their supposed tagets – Luis Suarez, Robin van Persie, Dimitar Berbatov to name a few – the Serie A giants failed to put their money where their mouth is and ended up with Arsenal reject Nicklas Bendtner on loan…

Tottenham have held a long-standing interest in Llorente and reportedly made an eleventh hour bid for him on transfer deadline day. With just Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor on their books, the north Londoners are one striker short of having a squad capable of competing at the top but are unlikely to be able to afford Llorente’s massive wage demands and cannot afford the Champions League football the striker craves.

Liverpool are also in dyer need of striking reinforcements and Llorente would transform their squad from mid-table mediocrity into top four contenders almost single-handedly. The club’s board baulked at Fulham’s £6m asking-price for 29-year-old Clint Dempsey, suggesting they’re not willing to spend big, but with Llorente available relatively cheaply, the board might make funds available to boss Brendan Rodgers. It seems unlikely though.

Arsenal may also be interested in the Spaniard. The Gunners lost star man van Persie this summer and are yet to replace the Dutchman but their interest is likely to depend on the form of Olivier Giroud between now and January. With the north Londoners unwilling to pay Theo Walcott more than £75,000 per week, they may also be put off by Llorente demands of over £100,000 weekly.

Man City, meanwhile, have been frequently linked with striking reinforcements but with Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko already on their books, they will only move for a player in the very top bracket and Llorente falls just short.

That leaves Chelsea. The Blues need a back-up to Fernando Torres and need a striker capable of playing up front on his own. Llorente certainly fits the bill and the move is made more probable by the fact that the European Champions’ number one target Hulk joined Zenit St Petersburg.

It’s all ifs and buts at the moment but watch this space.

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