Tottenham Hotspur’s limp exit from the Champions League last night perhaps best highlighted how critical of a mistake it was for the club to let Fernando Llorente leave in the summer.
The Spaniard left Tottenham at the end of his contract in the summer, eventually joining the Italian side Napoli on a free transfer.
It was an odd move, especially as his exit appeared to drag on over the summer. As reported by the London Evening Standard, Tottenham actually offered Llorente a one-year extension to his £100,000-a-week contract but on reduced terms. Eventually, the Spaniard and the club went their separate ways.
The Daily Mail later claimed that Mauricio Pochettino wanted to keep Llorente as a plan B striker option, but the club could not find an agreement over a new deal. The report stated that the Argentine was fearful of Tottenham’s lack of a different option.
Last season Tottenham twice nearly found themselves dumped out of the Champions League, only for Llorente to make a huge difference from the bench. He scored against Manchester City in the quarter-finals before wreaking havoc against Ajax in the semi-final second-leg.
Whilst Llorente would have been unlikely to help an injury-ravaged and clearly mentally depleted Tottenham side defeat Leipzig this week, his absence is clearly felt amid the injuries to Harry Kane and Heung-min Son.
Even Jose Mourinho commented on the matter this week, as reported by Football.London, suggesting Llorente could have been used as a more direct attacking option.
“Without Llorente. If you want to put the long balls in the box then we cannot do it that way, we have to try to do it in another,
“I think if we are waiting for the last 15, 20 minutes of the game to have a direct approach and put the ball in the box and to try from second balls, and be dominant in the box, I don’t think that is how we can do it.”
Instead, Tottenham look bereft of options going forward and Llorente’s absence is being more keenly felt now more than ever.
He was Tottenham’s unlikely hero last season. Nearly 12 months later, it is hard to see where a similar option might have come from this week.