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Sudden Leeds Utd exit explained by Diego Llorente as defender addresses ‘huge step forward’ of Roma transfer

Diego Llorente of Leeds United

Diego Llorente has explained why he didn’t need to think twice about leaving Leeds United for Roma, just over a month after his contract extension at Elland Road.

In one of the more surprising developments of the later stages of the January transfer window, Llorente emerged onto Roma’s radar and ended up leaving Leeds on deadline day. He will spend the rest of the season on loan in the Italian capital.

If things go well for him, Roma may choose to activate their option to buy him permanently. It would be quite the turnaround after he only signed a contract renewal with Leeds in December.

At the time, Llorente said it was “exciting” to be able to continue with Leeds, claiming he could “help the club improve” with his involvement.

But five-and-a-half weeks later, Llorente has now had to explain his sudden departure from the club after heading off to Italy.

The centre-back said in his first interview with Roma’s official channels that he has made a step forward in his career by trading Leeds for them – a claim he uttered three times, each a little more emphatic than the last.

Llorente said: “It’s an honour to be here.

“When the possibility of coming to Roma was presented to me, I did not need to think about it twice because Roma are a huge club and I think it’s a big step in my career.”

Adding further justification for his change of scenery, the Spaniard confirmed he was not originally planning to leave Leeds, but he couldn’t turn this opportunity – which will lift him back up to Europa League level – down.

Diego Llorente wasn’t ‘angling for’ Leeds exit

He added: “I hadn’t been angling for a move, but when the chance to sign for Roma arose, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. It was just a matter of coming here and making the most of the opportunity.”

Llorente left Leeds midway through a season in which he had played 13 games, 11 of which were starts.

Now, he has joined a squad only one point behind the Champions League places in Serie A.

Although the jury is out on whether he was a success at Leeds, he thinks he can offer a lot alongside the likes of Chris Smalling.

Llorente explained: “I’m expecting to offer a lot to Roma and to help out the team. I reckon that the football will be really intense and that I’ll have to be fully focused at all times.

“The standards here are high both on a tactical and physical level.

“Like I said before, it’s a big step forward in my career as I keep on developing.”

And that “big step” became a “huge step” in his next notable comment, as he addressed the environment he will now be competing in.

The former Real Sociedad star concluded: “Rome is beautiful, an incredible city, and I think it is almost impossible to find a better place to carry on playing my football.

“Both on a sporting level and on a personal level, I think it’s a huge step forward in my career.”

If it is a step he does not take in his stride, Llorente will be back at Leeds under a contract until 2026. But he is now focusing on the immediate challenges ahead having put himself at Jose Mourinho’s disposal.

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