By George Overhill

29th Dec, 2022 | 7:10pm

Leeds United gamble on Diego Llorente value increase with surprise contract extension

Diego Llorente’s surprise Leeds United contract extension is based on the club’s hopes that his value is set to increase according to Phil Hay.

The Spaniard signed a new contract at Elland Road on 23 December despite being in indifferent form, hot on the heels of a similar extension for Pascal Struijk (21 December), while Robin Koch is expected to follow suite imminently.

The Whites reportedly believe that the transfer market is evolving in such a way that transfer values at the centre-back position are set to rise, so despite recent performances the club feel 29-year-old Llorente could net them a decent fee in the future.

Speaking on the Thursday episode of The Phil Hay Show [29 December, 13min 15sec] Hay said: “There was a definite difference between the reaction to Struijk signing a new deal, which made total sense… and to Llorente signing his, where the general feeling was, ‘Has he played well enough for us to be committing to him for another three and a half years?’ And I totally see the argument there.”

He went on [14min 45sec]: “Leeds are of the view that as the transfer market develops over the next few years centre-backs are going to become more and more coveted and expensive, and there’s wisdom in consolidating the ones you have.

“They still look at Llorente and think he’s on the fringes of the Spain squad, there’s been a change of head coach with Spain, if he gets back in there it enhances his reputation and there might actually be some resale value in him.”

He further added [17min]: “When we’ve asked about centre-backs it’s all been this idea that they’re going to become expensive commodities, and if you have on your books centre-backs that you feel are worth keeping then you should.”

Bad bet

Looking ahead in the transfer market is always going to be a gamble to some degree, and while Struijk has probably earned his extension and Koch just about fits the profile of a player Leeds United wouldn’t like to lose for free, it is difficult to see a profit from Llorente in the future.

His form over the past two seasons might charitably be termed inconsistent, and considering how Koch and Liam Cooper have hardly been in sparkling form themselves but have kept him out of the team it doesn’t speak much for his current standing.

If he finds a way back into the Spain side then perhaps a La Liga team would pay a modest fee, but it would have to be sooner rather than later if the space on the wage bill he occupies doesn’t negate whatever they are willing to offer.

When Llorente came off the bench against Manchester City on Wednesday night (28 December) the crowd weren’t overly impressed [Yorkshire Evening Post], and there’s been little of late to convince a new national team coach that he deserves a recall.

Sometimes a player simply needs a new environment and it is best for the team to just cut their losses and let him go.

The defence above all needs to be strengthened and spending more money on the incumbents who aren’t getting the job done seems to make that harder, so it is a strange move.

In other Leeds United news, one Whites player had a “curious” exchange with City boss Pep Guardiola during the 3-1 defeat.