Llorente off the mark for Juventus
Fernando Llorente said he never doubted himself as he put three tormented months behind him by marking his starting debut in a Juventus shirt with the winning goal against Hellas Verona on Sunday.
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Rumours had surfaced over the past week that the Spanish forward could seek a move away from Turin in the winter after failing to break into the side following his summer transfer from Athletic Bilbao.
He seemed to have slipped down to fifth in the Juve attack’s pecking order -- his only previous run-out coming in a two-minute cameo as a substitute last month -- but when given his chance with a start on Sunday as his strike sealed a 2-1 win for the champions.
“I didn’t expect to score in my first game,” he said. “I’m pleased with the goal and for the team, who won, which is the most important thing. I was relaxed. I just needed time to get into form and I knew that I would have to work hard.”
His time came on Sunday with Juve’s general manager Beppe Marotta praising coach Antonio Conte for the way he has nurtured the 28-year-old following his arrival on a free transfer.
“We knew that he had not played all year, and for this he clearly had problems settling in, but Conte knew when was the best time to play him and I believe it was the right time for him to debut,” he told Sky television.
Conte saw his handling of the player justified by the Spain international’s response, while demanding more from his summer signing.
“Somebody might say that I should have used him earlier, but I try to look after my players and my team,” Conte told Mediaset television. “The lad has always made himself available for the team and I think this goal has given him belief and it will help him to grow more because he can and must do more.
“People are always going to say things about my choices, but if we carry on winning, then we will keep certain criticism at bay.”