Despite impressing his manager, Zinedine Zidane, on Real Madrid’s preseason tour of North America, Los Blancos believed sending their talented midfielder, Marcos Llorente, out on loan would be the best option for his development.
Although Llorente’s preference was to remain in Madrid, which made sense, for he would have served as an ideal backup to Casemiro, the club still believed getting a full season of first-team action elsewhere was the right decision to make.
Coming to the realisation minutes would have been scarce had he stayed, the search began to find him a club that would guarantee him vital playing time for the 2016/2017 campaign. A perfect fit subsequently arrived in the form of newly promoted Deportivo Alaves, and Llorente hasn’t looked back, as he’s been outstanding since joining El Glorioso.
The fact former Valencia player, Mauricio Pellegrino, is Alaves’ manager, a man Zidane knows well having played against him during his La Liga career, was also a key factor in getting the deal done.
Three games in and Llorente’s been one of the driving forces behind Alaves’ inspirational start. Aside from drawing against Sporting Gijon, their remarkable results to obtain a draw with Atletico Madrid and defeat Barcelona at the Camp Nou have been nothing short of spectacular.
The results speak volumes for the team’s never say die attitude and the way Pellegrino’s galvanised his side. The tough coach describes their fantastic start suitably by saying they’re “rebelling against football’s reality”. He’s spot on too.
To focus specifically on their monumental victory over Barcelona, only the second time they’ve beaten the Catalans away from home in 95 years, and Pellegrino deserves special praise for surprising his opposition by organising his team into a 5-4-1 formation when defending. A move the Barcelona manager, Luis Enrique, even admitted to being startled by.
“There is an abyss between the two sides and when that’s the case you have to make sure that they aren’t comfortable playing,” explained Pellegrino after the match.
There could be no doubting what an instrumental role Llorente played too, in a match where the 21-year-old’s maturity and composure saw him look right at home in front of an intimidating Camp Nou crowd.
It took less than one minute and 30 seconds for the wiry midfielder to stamp his mark on the contest. Having been beaten by Neymar in a 1v1, Llorente quickly got on his bike and charged down the Brazilian to make amends by applying a superbly timed tackle to force a turnover. This sort of fighting spirit undoubtedly set the tone for his teammates to follow and would’ve been something his manager would’ve loved seeing.
Against lesser teams, however, expect his polished offensive skillset to come to the fore, for this is an area of undeniable strength for him. “I am a technical, skillful and agile player with good vision,” he explained.
Alaves’ unbelievable victory over the reigning champions now sees them move into the top half of the table. For the team who just achieved promotion to the top flight for the first time in 10 years, they really couldn’t of dreamt of a better start to life back in La Liga.
Looking ahead, they face another challenging encounter with Deportivo La Coruna on Monday night, and they’ll be hoping their gifted loanee who’s made an immediate impression can help them continue their promising start to the season.
The player himself will be keen to keep up his high level too, as he’s desperate to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors when he returns to Madrid. After all, his grandfather, Ramon Grosso, his great uncle, Francisco Gento, and his father, Paco, all played for Los Merengues.
With such exceptional pedigree, you can guarantee Llorente will be doing everything in his power to ensure he enjoys a long and successful career with Real Madrid.
For now, though, his focus is solely on Alaves, where he’s unquestionably doing his prestigious family name proud.