To say Leeds United’s centre-back has had a stressful week might be an early contender for under-statement of this year’s (or is it last year’s?) European Championship.
Llorente failed a Covid-19 test on Tuesday only to be allowed to return to the Spain squad on Friday after four negative tests which suggested the initial one might not have been correct. It shows how even more precarious than usual a player’s place at this tournament is.
As it is, there will be 10 Yorkshire-based players at the European Championship, giving supporters of Leeds in particular extra teams to cheer on. Sheffield United have two of them, plus three former players born in the Steel City. Hull and Barnsley have stakes too.
Getting the nod in a Spanish squad where the competition at centre-back was so fierce that the country’s captain and most-capped player, Sergio Ramos, was not picked was no easy feat for Llorente, whose Leeds career only started in essence in late February, six injury-hit months after joining the club, but who impressed hugely from that point on.
Spain coach Luis Enrique made it harder still by only choosing 24 players despite being allowed 26.
Llorente’s club-mate Rodrigo was not picked despite the forward signing off the Premier League season with four goals in as many matches.
Whether Llorente will make the team for Monday’s game in Seville is anybody’s guess given how hard Enrique has been to predict lately.
England’s team is hard to anticipate too, but Leeds-born Kalvin Phillips has a good chance of lining up against Croatia tomorrow and if not, could easily be one of five substitutes used.
Tyler Roberts might have beaten him to it as the first Leeds player on the field by then. The Welshman may struggle to make the XI against Switzerland in Baku this afternoon but if so his attacking qualities make him a good option from the bench.
If Ben Davies starts on the left of defence, Sheffield United youngster Rhys Norrington-Davies will be hoping to be one of 12 substitutes, but if the Tottenham Hotspur man is used more centrally, he could get his chance.
At the other end of the field, Dan James – born in Hull to a Welsh father – will carry plenty of attacking responsibility.
Ezgjan Alioski and Mateusz Klich are big figures for North Macedonia and Poland respectively, but Barnsley’s Michal Helik is on the fringes of the latter’s back three.
Liam Cooper faces a battle too, with Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney guaranteed the spot on the left side of central defence which Hull-born Cooper captains Leeds from.
Sheffield United midfielder John Fleck seems likely to miss Monday’s game against the Czech Republic at Hampden Park after contracting Covid-19 at Scotland’s pre-tournament training camp, and only returning from 10 days’ isolation on Thursday.
Sheffield Wednesday’s Liam Palmer and Callum Paterson were unfortunate not to make the cut for Scotland having been squad regulars.
Llorente’s Leeds form at the back end of the season made it hard for Robin Koch to state his case for Germany and he had making up to do having been part of the side beaten 6-0 by Spain.
Even without any Blades in it, there will be a strong Sheffield United feel to the England camp thanks to former academy products Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Maguire and Walker could at some point reunite their South Yorkshire World Cup semi-final back three with Manchester City’s Barnsley-born defender John Stones.
There will be plenty of former players scattered around too, and the likes of Kieffer Moore (ex-Barnsley and Rotherham United) and another Bramall Lane old boy, Che Adams, will be hoping for key roles up front for Wales and Scotland respectively.