Leeds United journalist Graham Smyth has expressed his surprise that the club have extended the contract of defender Diego Llorente.
The Spaniard recently signed an extension which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2026, and has made 56 appearances for Leeds since joining from Real Sociedad in 2020 for around £18m.
However, he has been criticised during his time at the club for inconsistent performances, and he has made a number of errors which have cost his side goals and points.
Speaking on the Inside Elland Road Podcast, Smyth reacted negatively to the news, before explaining the possible reasoning behind the new deal.
“It’s less straightforward with Diego Llorente,” he stated.
“It’s a lot more surprising that they tied Llorente to a longer deal. The club’s rationale is that firstly, when it was being discussed, he felt he was going to the World Cup, he had a very good chance of going to the World Cup with Spain. That didn’t happen. And I guess if he’s going to the World Cup and he plays really well, his value might go up.
“There might even be interest from Spain, you don’t know, but he didn’t go to the World Cup.
“It was after that, that Leeds United then signed the longer contract with him. He still seemed to feel like the price of centre-backs is going to go through the roof, and so they want to protect the value of those that they’ve got that still retain some resale value, and they obviously feel Llorente is one of those.
“His form has just been a little patchy, and there have been times when you think it’s not really working out for him or his confidence isn’t there.”
TIF thoughts on Leeds and Llorente…
Protecting Llorente’s value is probably the main reasoning behind the extension, and when everyone is fit he is good enough to be a serviceable backup or rotational player at the very least.
If Leeds sign a left-back in the next window, Pascal Struijk can move back to the centre, next to Robin Koch and Llorente would not be a starter.
Whilst this does raise some eyebrows that a long extension has been handed to a player who is not guaranteed to play, it does meant the club can ask for a good fee if there is transfer interest in Llorente.
If an offer does not arrive, then Llorente will be 33 by the time his contract expires, and is unlikely to improve. Therefore, overall, Smyth is right to question why such a large contract has been handed out to him.