For Real Madrid, though, ‘La Fabrica’ has long become a list of wistful exists of fans-turned-professionals who are discarded. This summer, Sergio Reguilon was the latest academy prospect to be shifted on in favour of a more ‘established’ name to take his squad place. For Madrid fans, though, one of the most painful academy losses must be Marcos Llorente. Why? Because he plays for their city rivals Atletico Madrid.
And he does not just play for them – he is one of the best midfielders in the country now. The Spaniard was instrumental in an Atletico Madrid midfield a times last year, especially in a flagship win at Anfield against the aforementioned Liverpool. This season, though, he has begun the season with the drive, energy, and anger that one would expect of a player who wants to conquer the world and prove his boyhood club wrong in every way.
And with a senior Spain call-up now confirmed, it looks like Llorente could be giving a week-by-week clinic on why emptying the academy is often a mistake.
A story of what could have been
Llorente has so far contributed five goals and assists in the domestic season, and has shown up in almost all of their goals. The exit of Thomas Partey has given him a starring role in the middle, and it is his ‘grinta’ that is making the difference for Atletico in such a big way. He is already beginning to develop further, moving further up the pitch this season and beginning to contribute in a more offensive way.
Seen as a ball winner in the past, it is his indomitable drives from midfield that is adding an extra surge of life to the Atleti attack this year. When he was moved on from Real Madrid in the summer of 2019, fans were annoyed; they could see a solid, effective squad player being moved on to a fierce rival.
However, with the Madrid midfield looking weak and lethargic this year, the strength of Llorente is shining even brighter than it would have been otherwise. His form has become one of the most impressive runs in the top flight, and he could become one of the most impressive all-around players in La Liga.
For the white side of Madrid, he was seen as a useful squad member who could be discarded. In the red and white of Madrid, though, he is becoming the beating heart of another great Diego Simeone side.