By George Overhill

8th Mar, 2023 | 12:10pm

Diego Llorente Roma future on the line ahead of clash with former side, Leeds United return may be on the cards

Leeds United loanee Diego Llorente’s continued career at Roma will depend on the opportunity he is set for this week, GOAL Italy reports.

The Spanish defender left Elland Road late in the January transfer window on a loan-to-buy deal that was deemed virtually guaranteed to become permanent, [Leeds Live, 30 January].

However, he has since played just a single minute of football under Jose Mourinho, but is now in line to face his former side Real Sociedad in the Italians’ key knockout tie in the Europa League on Thursday (9 March).

Roger Ibanez is suspended and the Whites man is due to get his first start for the Serie A side, with GOAL Italia reporting that a “large portion” of his future is at stake.

In the balance

The unexpected chance to move on Llorente and likely net a profit at the same time was arguably the most impressive move of the January transfer window.

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The centre-back has never looked fully at home in the Whites line-up and has arguably been the worst offender in terms of calamitous Leeds defensive displays over the past couple of seasons, although he was far from alone.

But it is not a positive sign that he has played only one minute in over a month since, and obviously raises the question as to why Mourinho saw fit to sign him in the first place.

If the criteria of the deal meant it was odds-on to be made permanent, to the point where it was being reported as an obligation rather than an option at the time [Phil Hay, 30 January], then negligible playing time would seem like one of the few ways for it to be avoided.

So the Europa League last-16 match couldn’t be more important for Llorente, not least with him facing his former side from his home country.

It seems unlikely that he is going to be eager to return to Elland Road and be nowhere near first choice, just as the Whites would prefer to receive the money instead, so taking the opportunity to prove himself to the Special One is going to be key.

Otherwise, if he doesn’t perform to his best and Mourinho doesn’t turn to him again in what is left of the season, he could then be set for a disappointing return to West Yorkshire in the summer.

In other Leeds United news, the £500million 49ers takeover is now “hanging by a thread” despite a date ready for the deal to be rubber stamped.

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