Why Marcos Llorente does not fit into this Real Madrid side
It isn’t easy being a young player at Real Madrid, and Marcos Llorente is finding that out first hand this season.
After being lauded for his displays with Alaves last season, and then following it up with an impressive string of European U-21 Championship displays with Spain, it was expected Llorente would find himself an important member of Real Madrid’s first time squad.
Although it’s early days back at the Bernabeu for Llorente, serious doubts are beginning to emerge over whether the player has a future at the club. To add more fuel to the fire, Llorente’s deal is running down and will expire in 2018 - it will take something pretty special from the player to earn a renewal in the few minutes he’s expected to be handed.
Llorente is in that tricky situation of being handed sporadic time on the field and impress when he does. Sometimes this forces errors and mistakes that a player would perhaps not make in his normal game. He had ample amount of time at Alaves to impress, but such are the demands of Real Madrid the window of opportunity is slight.
Rumours persist of Llorente’s awkward relationship with Zinedine Zidane when the Frenchman was at Real Madrid Castilla too. There, it was suggested the young midfielder took part in a dressing room revolt of sorts against Zizou, who was apparently showing favouritism towards his son Enzo.
Llorente was sometimes used out of position at centre-back, rather than being deployed in what has become a familiar role of deep lying midfielder. Finally, while being a regular presence in training with the first team with Rafa Benitez, under Zidane he was placed back down to Castilla and featured more often in their workouts.
Isco’s recent renewal is a reminder that patience and hard work are valued, but not every case can be like the attacking midfielder's. Llorente must absolutely take stock of Isco’s own development at the club, from being in-limbo to regular starter. At the same time, however, he must assess what is best for his career.
The injury to Mateo Kovacic, expected to keep on the sidelines for two months, perhaps changes things for Llorente. It represents one of those opportunities that don’t normally arise. Llorente won’t be a starter in his ideal position, Casemiro will have that role, but the Brazilian can’t play every game and Zidane’s shown a penchant for regular rotation ever since he came to the club.
A run in the Copa del Rey feels under Llorente at this point and he showed at Alaves he not only has the ability but the mentality too, to hold down a regular position in a La Liga team.
Suitors, of course, will form a long queue for Llorente. One report over the summer claimed his agent had 35 offers on the table for the player. Real Madrid, intrigued about the development of the player, were reluctant to let him go so soon. Llorente too, felt he could handle the pressure of such an environment in one of the world’s biggest clubs.
Credit to him for that, but sometimes the reality is different and in January, those offers might have to be assessed once again. Kovacic will be back from injury and we’ll likely know more about Zidane’s rotation policy then, and where Llorente fits in.
There is a role for Llorente, that is for sure. A ball-playing midfielder, capable of collecting the ball out of the backline and even slotting in at centre-back, looking to initiate attacking transitions. Throw in the breaking up of a play too, and astute reading of the game. A more soothing presence than Casemiro, above all.
This does not mean he has a future at the club, however, and even at this early stage, it seems time is against Llorente.