Steve Walsh helped Claudio Ranieri's Leicester achieve the impossible
When Everton appointed Steve Walsh as their new director of football after his remarkable success at Leicester City, it’s likely they wanted him to unearth diamonds rather than head up shareholder Farhad Moshiri’s search for a marquee signing.
After all, Walsh’s influence with the 2016 Premier League champions had been based around plucking the likes of Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez from markets top flight rivals wouldn’t bother to scour.
Therefore, Diego Llorente is in many ways the typical Walsh target, as reported by Marca. Though he could hardly be described as a ‘diamond in the rough’, he’s contracted to Real Madrid after all, the 23-year-old hasn’t quite been given the attention his superb performances deserve.
Diego Llorente in action for Rayo Vallecano in 2015/16
In truth, Llorente’s 2016/17 could hardly have gone any better. Farmed out on loan for a second successive season after a spell at Rayo Vallecano, Llorente cemented his status as one of Spain’s brightest young talents while helping Malaga finish a respective eleventh in La Liga.
Starting 23 games, the Madrid-born centre-back’s apex came in a mature performance against Barcelona in April. Marking Luis Suarez out the game, Malaga stormed to a deserved 2-0 victory – their first triumph over Barca at La Rosaleda for 14 years.
With Real eventually finishing just three points above Barca to end their five year wait for the La Liga title, Llorente could lay claim to playing a major role despite spending the season away from the capital.
Madrid to Merseyside?
Therefore, it's little surprise that an Everton side on the lookout for Europe’s top talent are plotting a £12 million offer to ward off Real Sociedad, according to Marca.
With Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka on the wrong side of 30, The Toffees must think long-term and Llorente is a prime example of Walsh’s foresight.