Leeds United defender Diego Llorente subject of a bizarre claim in Spain
Just hours after he was named in the Spain squad for their March international fixtures, Leeds United centre-half Diego Llorente was the subject of a bizarre claim by Spanish outlet Gol Digital.
The report's claim that Real Betis are interested in taking the centre-half is no real surprise, due to his status and the career he's had to date, not to mention the Premier League performances he's put in for Leeds.
What doesn't quite chime with reality is the context given for what Gol Digital say is a desire on Llorente's part to leave Elland Road midway through his first season in England.
'The player is not a starter in his team,' claims the article. 'The technical decision on the part of [Marcelo Bielsa] is to continue relegating him to the bench,' it continues, ignoring the fact that Llorente has been out injured for the vast majority of the season.
Far from being 'ostracised' Llorente has been played, by Bielsa, as soon as he has returned to full fitness. A groin strain picked up in October national team duty kept him out until December, when Bielsa used him as a substitute against Chelsea when Robin Koch had to go off with a knee problem.
Llorente sustained a fresh groin problem towards the end of the game at Stamford Bridge, however, and returned in January at Newcastle United. Ten minutes into that game he was trudging off with a hamstring injury.
February and March have been kinder to the defender. His comeback against Southampton went without a hiccup and he has played every minute of the three games that have followed.
What's more, speaking exclusively to the YEP just last week, Llorente expressed his eternal gratitude to everyone at the club who supported him through first season full of injury problems: "I've got nothing but thanks for everyone who has helped you.
"It wasn't just the medical staff, it was my team-mates as well. Everyone at Leeds helped me through those tough times and not just on a sporting level but on a personal level. I'm grateful for all that help and always will be."
He also put on record his excitement at finally playing in front of Leeds fans in the season finale against West Brom, if Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted as planned, and insisted that Leeds' Premier League progress, not the delayed Euro 2020 Championships, was not his priority.
"The main thing I'm thinking of, my main objective is to keep learning, taking things day by day and enjoying playing again. I want to help the team in every game I can and I suppose it's about winning as many games as we can, pick up as many points as we can. There's nothing else on my mind other than that. I'd love to be considered for the national team but you have to be aware that there's lots of competition in all areas but in my position in particular. Of course everyone wants to play for his country, it's a tough team to get into. All I can do is concentrate on what's in my control day to day, work hard and help my team."
The Gol Digital article says the call up from Luis Enrique has come with a condition attached - that he plays regularly. At present, contrary to the claims made yesterday, that's exactly what he's doing.