Could Fernando Llorente be on his way to Arsenal? The Gunners have long been linked with the powerful 27-year-old centre forward, particularly after Robin van Persie left to join Manchester United. Llorente, who scored 29 goals in 53 appearances for his hometown club Athletic Bilbao last season, has only one year left on his contract at San Mames and has already informed the club that he will not renew his deal.
"We spoke with him during last season and made him see how important it was that he renewed (his contract)... his agents told me there was no financial reason to continue... [no] guarantee of challenging for championships and success," club president Josu Urrutia was quoted as saying in August.
Llorente has been offered a new deal believed to be worth £3.5m a year but so far has refused to even negotiate, a decision that has incurred the displeasure of Bilbao supporters, who made their feelings known when the Basques travelled to play Espanyol. The boos aside, Llorente was in fine form, scoring once to help his side to a 3-3 draw.
Should the striker stick to his guns, the club may be forced to accept bids for a January transfer rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. The possibility, therefore, of a relative bargain deal (Bilbao now value him at £15m, according to the Daily Mail) could tempt a number of his old suitors back into the fray, including Arsenal.
The Gunners signed German international Lukas Podolski and French striker Olivier Giroud as replacements for van Persie. Podolski has been in excellent form in recent weeks, scoring vital goals (like the one in the Champions League against Montpellier) and is clearly enjoying his time in London. Giroud, meanwhile, has failed to live up to expectations but continues, for now, to have the support of his manager. However, Arsene Wenger will be wary of the Marouane Chamakh experiment and could be considering a move for Llorente as back-up if Giroud's form fails to improve.
Among the other sides interested in Llorente, Chelsea may consider a serious bid. They have, at present, only Fernando Torres as a recognised senior striker and the £50m Liverpool signing has been as frustratingly inconsistent this season as he was last; his performance against Stoke City in the recent league game is only the latest disappointing example. The Blues were linked with a £48m January move for Atletico Madrid hotshot Radamel Falcao but a £15m swoop for Llorente, an equally proven goal scorer, may be more financially prudent.
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