Juventus have taken a big step towards signing Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente on a free transfer next summer.
The Italian champions are to hold talks with the 27-year-old Spain striker, who has scored 115 goals in 317 appearances over nine seasons for the Basque club.
Athletic has published a statement confirming the development on its website.
“Juventus has informed Athletic that, knowing Fernando Llorente’s contract expires on 30th June 2013, the Italian club will begin negotiations with the player”.
The striker is able to sign a pre-contract this month with any non-Spanish club.
Italian sports site ‘Tuttosport’, claims that Juventus has offered Athletic €4 million to take Llorente to Turin in the January transfer window. However, such a move looks likely to fail, as Athletic has made it clear on several occasions that it will not allow the marksman to leave while under contract for any less than his €36 million buyout clause.
It’s pretty remarkable that Atletico would rather see Llorente, who is no longer considered a first-choice striker with the club, after being involved in a training ground disagreement with Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa in October, leave for free in the summer, than let him go to Juventus this month.
It cannot make for a good atmosphere in the squad when a talented player like Llorente is desperate to leave, but the club won’t let him go.