Karan Tejwani provides the lowdown on Real Madrid’s talented midfielder, Marcos Llorente.
Real Madrid have made smart purchases from Spanish clubs in recent years and are building the future of their side with them at the core. Marco Asensio is an example, after he had a successful season in which he helped the club win their first La Liga title since 2012 and a second successive Champions League honour. They’ve also bought back Jesús Vallejo to offer him a more prominent role in the side after a loan spell in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt where he caught the eye of many, while Spain U21’s star Dani Ceballos was purchased from Real Betis earlier in the summer.
Another supremely gifted footballer they have amongst their ranks is 22-year-old Marcos Llorente, who returns to the side after an exceptional loan spell with Alavés under Mauricio Pellegrino. Llorente was central to their success in the club’s first La Liga season since 2005-06, as their ninth-place finish earned them many plaudits, and caught the eye of Southampton, who snapped up Pellegrino as their new manager. He is sure to be a huge miss for them, but now at Real Madrid, he can prove his quality amongst greater competition for starting places, and possibly, stake a claim to be amongst Spain’s roster that will travel for the World Cup in Russia next summer.
Who is Marcos Llorente?
Marcos Llorente comes from a family of professional footballers who maintain great ties with Real Madrid. His grandfather, Ramón Grosso, played for Real Madrid between 1964 and 1976 and won 14 Spanish national team caps between 1967 and 1970. His father, Paco Llorente, helped Los Blancos to three La Liga titles and two Copa del Rey successes between 1987 and 1994, playing over a hundred times for the club, while his great uncle, Francisco Gento, was part of the most successful phase in the club’s history, playing over 400 games in a 19-year-spell, winning 12 La Liga titles and six European Cups in a brilliant career.
Talent Radar Accolades:
The midfielder himself joined the club when he was 13 and progressed through the ranks, before linking up with the club’s “B” side under Zinedine Zidane in 2014. It was around this time that his fine showings were rewarded with a call-up to the Spanish U19 setup, and in the very next season, he was given a few opportunities in pre-season with the senior side under Rafael Benítez, and occasionally in the senior squad for La Liga games. Last season, he joined Alavés on a one-season spell and played 32 games overall and gained sufficient experience to be regarded in the team’s first-team plans for the upcoming season.
What is his Style of Play?
Traditionally a holding midfielder, Llorente has a knack for going forward and possesses good attributes while on the ball. Strong on the ball as well as off it, he is a major asset to any side as holding midfielders who can charge higher up the pitch with the ball, like he does, are a rarity. He admitted that he was regarded as “too weak” to take defensive responsibilities on in his younger days, but with his time at Real Madrid B and a year at Alavés, he has proven to become a stellar prospect in that role.
Due to his capabilities of playing a higher role, he also occasionally occupies a central midfield spot higher up the pitch, and with his attacking aptitude, he took several shots and was core to Alavés’ attacking play. While in his traditional role, he is a tough tackler and a no-nonsense midfielder who is fantastic at his role. It could be expected that he develops into a central midfielder permanently, should he become more integrated in plans at Real Madrid. With a similar skillset to Toni Kroos, he is a fine passer of the ball, both long and short, and in the near future he could play in that position.
He also likes to spread play and his passing skill is a key complement to that as his long passes are extremely accurate most of the time and helped Alavés while on the counter attack. With a knack for charging higher up the pitch, Llorente can also adapt as a box-to-box midfielder with his capabilities, on and off the ball suiting the role, although he hasn’t played with that ideology frequently, and will require more minutes in that position if he wants to succeed with it. Nevertheless, there should be no doubts that he can pull off the task.
What are his Strengths?
Still just 22 years of age, Marcos Llorente receives a lot of plaudits for his awareness during in-game situations. He is a great tackler and settles in well into his central/defensive midfield roles, often keen to break up counter attacks with his near-perfect timing making him one of the best in his role in the La Liga. He played 32 times in the top tier last season, with only one appearance being from the bench, and averaged 3.8 tackles per game (the fourth best record in La Liga) and completed 2.7 interceptions per game (the fourth best for a midfielder in La Liga), which is a huge testament to his awareness and desire despite being at a tender age.
He is also a very good passer of the ball, both long and short. It was reported earlier last season that Arsenal were interested in striking a deal with Real Madrid for Marcos Llorente and with a skillset like that, this comes as no surprise as Llorente would fit into their philosophy perfectly. His ability to play long passes helped open up several opposition defences for Alavés and relieve them from opposition pressure. His passing statistics are pleasing as well, averaging 54.7 passes per game, with an average success rate of 87%- with his record mixing up amongst those playing for the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
It could be said that he maintains his high level of energy throughout the game and his fitness has been optimal to his success in the Spanish top flight. He plays the full 90 minutes most of the time, having completed just over 2800 minutes last season and while he is on the pitch, he is constantly running around in his own half, contributing immensely to defensive duties while also having an influence in Alavés’ attacking play. It is this energy that allows him to intercept and abolish so many dangerous attacking moves, while also recovering possession plenty of times for his side.
What are his Weaknesses?
There haven’t been too many errors committed by Llorente in his short senior career so far, but one area that he can improve in is his concentration and composure at the end of games. He picked up five yellow cards last season, which is expected for a defensive midfielder, but they can also be avoided, especially in Llorente’s case. Luckily for him, he hasn’t ever been sent off, but a little more caution would go a long way for his progress.
Apart from that, he faces no major issues with his style of play or behaviour, but he does face a problem of competition. Real Madrid now possess arguably the best options in the middle of the park, and if displacing the likes of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modrić was a difficult task, he faces further competition from the likes of Dani Ceballos and Mateo Kovačić amongst others. One hopes he will find some game time this season- it will be essential for his development.
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