On the first day of preseason training, Fernando Llorente told the press in attendance a simple reason why he was early to arrive at Vinovo: He showed up a week early because he didn't want to have a repeat of last season.
But this season isn't like last season.
There will be no coming off months of no playing time and being frozen out of an Athletic Bilbao squad. Instead, Llorente went from free transfer to one of the key pieces in Juventus' third straight title. His partnership with Carlos Tévez was one of the best 1-2 punches in all of Europe last season, as the Beauty and the Beast tandem scored a combined 35 goals in Serie A a year ago. While it was delayed satisfaction for the big Spaniard, Llorente ended the season with one of the best goal tallies of his career.
Not bad, right? Nope, not bad at all.
So that leaves one question: What's next for El Rey León?
You look back on what Llorente did a season ago in Serie A — 16 goals and five assists in 29 starts (34 games overall) — and just think that it's the continuation of what he's done in Spain. He shook off the rust and then got back to being, well, Fernando Llorente. How do I know this? Because there's evidence that says so. A quick look at what Llorente did with Athletic Bilbao before his last season in La Liga:
|Season||Starts (La Liga)||Total appearances||Goals scored||Assists||Total shots|
What does Llorente's last five seasons in Spain sans 2012-13 freeze out tell us? That right there is consistency, ladies and gents. Fernando plays, Fernando scores goals. Fernando plays consistently, Fernando contributes consistently. It's not any kind of whacky formula that can only be broken down with some kind of scientific degree.
Llorente's game is more than just goals, assists and flicks, of course. It's not like we can measure the sheer importance of his ability to hold up the ball as a target man by simple numbers and then share them with the masses. Llorente can supply opportunities almost as well as he can put them away in the back of the net. But his main job is to score. And based on what he did last season, when he's clicking, he's easily one of the best threats to lead the line in all of Serie A and Europe.
That's exactly what he showed us last season. Once the rust was shaken off, Llorente got down to business.
But a different year brings different happenings, a somewhat different roster and different things going on at the club. Like, say, who is managing Juventus for the future in the short term.
Obviously the possibility of the long-rumored Juventus switch to a 4-3-3 formation doesn't seem as likely now that Max Allegri in the guy in charge as it seemed like when Antonio Conte was still inhibiting the managerial position. Could Llorente thrive the way he did in a formation like a 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-2-1 like he did in the 3-5-2 Conte used last season? There's no doubt in my mind that Llorente's talent, ability and attributes as a striker are there to play in pretty much any kind of tactical lineup and formation Allegri decides to go with this season. You just can't help but think what it would have been like with Llorente being the middle man in the three-pronged attack, though. Good service from both wings and the Lion King would be using every bit of that 6-foot-5 frame to smash home headers.
Of course that's still possible, but, ah, what could have been under Antonio...
FERNANDO LLORENTE 2014-15 PROJECTION (SERIE A ONLY)
Games: 35 games
Starts: 30 starts
Handsome pictures posted on Twitter: Numerous.