Llorente: Madrid tried to sign me

Fernando Llorente has revealed Real Madrid’s past interest, his failure to understand Athletic Bilbao’s choices and the differences to life at Juventus.

This week sees Llorente and current outfit Juve travel out to the Santiago Bernabeu for the third matchday in the Champions League group stage.

It is a stadium whose support has previously applauded the striker when in action for Athletic Bilbao, whilst Madrid have more than once been linked with a move for the striker.

For the 28-year-old Spanish international, it was an interest from club and fans that was reciprocated.

“For me the applause was beautiful, but I was pretty much criticised in Bilbao for responding to it,” remembered Llorente in today’s edition of AS.

“If they are applauding me, I at least wanted to say thank you and even more so as I was going through a difficult moment.

“Was there interest from Madrid? Yes, there was real interest. But in the end there was no agreement and nothing came out of it.

“How many times have they tried to sign me? A few times or so. When? The last was when I had a year to go on my contract, after the good year in the Europa League.

“Then, later on [with six months on his contract] Madrid did not come in and Juve did and gave me more confidence.

“At first it was impossible to leave Athletic. There you either have your release clause paid or you stay.”

Llorente’s final year at San Mames saw him generally confined to the bench.

“Even today I do not understand why. Athletic is a club based on their youth team and they cannot sell their best players. That’s the explanation I was given.

“But I also think they wanted to show me, I believe, as an example to other players so that they would not opt to leave the club.

“Javi Martinez left? Yes but his clause was paid. It is certain that once I was clear to them, and I had given them all that I could have, that they preferred to have me there all year round rather than sell me.

“That’s one of the things I do not understand.”

The Spaniard’s adaptation to life in Italy has seen him struggle initially for game-time under Antonio Conte, but as he explained, there are differences he has had to embrace.

“Certainly. We work on strength very differently. I have never done that, used machines I did not know about. And there are other workouts that leave you exhausted.

“The training is more demanding. It’s barbaric, but it has an upside – you are left in better shape. The workouts are brutal.

“And the tactics? They require an adaptation. This team has been playing together for three years. Everyone knows how to play and to produce that game you also have to train a lot.

“It is a football that is highly mechanised. You cannot do whatever you want nor just have the ball. Each movement is studied. The play ends as it has to end, and there are a lot of plays…”

Llorente considered how Juve may do in Wednesday’s visit to the capital to play Madrid.

“We will arrive there good and strong despite what happened in Florence [a 4-2 defeat at the weekend].

“We have not started too well in the Champions League with two draws against Copenhagen and Galatasaray, so we are hungry to get points and need to get points in these two matches against Madrid.”

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