Simon Walton has told BBC Radio Leeds that he was surprised to see Leeds United hand Diego Llorente a new contract last week, claiming that the Whites need to be looking at moving to the next level.
It is fair to say that Leeds caught many fans off-guard with their announcement last week.
Llorente has been a decent signing for the club. He was one of our better defenders last season as we narrowly avoided relegation. And he has produced some big performances for the club.
Walton questions Leeds decision to hand Llorente contract extension
However, it has been a really poor season for the Spaniard so far. Few fans will forget his torrid afternoon in the defeat to Brentford in early September. And his only league start since then was the equally-awful night at Leicester where the Whites were calamitous at the back.
Nevertheless, Leeds clearly see the centre-back playing an important role in the coming years. The club announced just before Christmas that Llorente has signed an extension, keeping him at Elland Road until 2026.
It is a big commitment given that Llorente will be 33 by the time the deal ends. And it is reasonable to suggest that it left plenty of fans scratching their heads.
Walton admitted after Wednesday’s loss to Manchester City that he is not exactly sure why Leeds made the decision to hand Llorente fresh terms.
“I was surprised with Llorente’s contract extension, I won’t lie,” he told BBC Radio Leeds. “Not because I think he’s a bad player, I just felt we’re at a stage now where there has to be some fresh blood coming in and a little jump to the next level, a bit of investment to kick on and freshen things up.”
Deal looks like a huge gamble
Walton is absolutely right. Llorente has the potential to be an outstanding performer. However, he is just as likely to cost the team with a big mistake.
Jesse Marsch wants his players to take risks on the ball. But clearly, he ran out of patience as Llorente has started one game since the start of October. And he has barely featured in any of the others.
Llorente does have the quality to silence his doubters at some stage. But you also feel that any run in the side will culminate with a poor performance where everything seems to go wrong.
With that, you really have to ask whether the board have taken a massive gamble extending his contract.