It could be that Atletico Madrid’s 5-0 win over Osasuna earlier in the week is looked back upon as a turning point in the career of Marcos Llorente. Lured from Real Madrid last summer, the addition of Llorente was deemed as quite a coup for Atleti. Llorente is a talented young midfielder who many see as one of Spanish football’s best hopes for the future.
And yet Diego Simeone didn’t seem to know what to do with the 25-year-old for the first two thirds of the season. Competition is currently stiff for midfield places in the Atletico Madrid squad and Llorente soon found himself down the pecking order behind the likes of Koke, Saul Niguez and Thomas Partey.
Something has changed, though. Simeone had some time to think about Llorente’s role in the Atleti team over the coronavirus shutdown and has subsequently deployed in a new position in the last two games. Used as more of an attacker than a midfielder, Llorente drove Atletico Madrid to two very important wins in back-to-back games.
Introduced off the bench for the final 30 minutes against Osasuna, Llorente scored and contributed two assists in a 5-0 win that represented Atletico Madrid’s best performance of the Liga season so far. And the 25-year-old followed it up with an impressive display in a win over Real Valladolid days later.
It would appear that Simeone has unlocked Llorente’s inherent creativity and invention by moving him higher up the pitch. While he has been previously used as a number six and a number eight, it’s as something closer to a number 10 that Llorente has finally found his place in the Atletico Madrid team.
This conversion could be a game-changer for Atletico Madrid as they attempt to rescue a difficult season. This season was always going to be one of transition for the capital club, with Simeone more than once referencing his desire to change Atleti’s style of play and identity as a whole.
Saturday’s win over Real Valladolid lifted them up to third place over Sevilla, significantly boosting their chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League when just a few matches ago they had a lot of work to do. And if Atletico Madrid are to take their seat at European club football’s top table again it will be Llorente who has helped them do so.
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