Leeds United intend to build their defence next season around Diego Llorente, Football Insider has learned.
The Spaniard, 27, has had a difficult debut campaign due to assorted injuries and made only two Premier League appearances by late February.
But Marcelo Bielsa and his Leeds United backroom staff have been hugely impressed by the £18million signing over the last two months.
A Leeds source has told Football Insider that Bielsa regards Llorente as the outstanding centre-back and all-round defender at the club.
His reading of the game, unflappability and aerial dominance, allied with his outstanding distribution, have been hugely impressive of late.
The United staff believe Llorente is a “phenomenal” talent and can be even more effective next season with more Premier League experience under his belt.
The seven-times Spain international has made only 10 Leeds appearances in total, although he has started the last seven Premier League matches.
He was excellent in Saturday’s against-the-odds 2-1 win over Man City that saw Liam Cooper dismissed in the first half.
The potential Leeds centre-back permutations have become a big talking point in recent weeks now 2020 summer signings Llorente and Robin Koch are fully fit again.
Bielsa has a full complement of centre-backs to choose from for the first time, with skipper Cooper and impressive 21-year-old Pascal Struijk also available.
Leeds have been notably harder to break down since Llorente came into the side.
They have conceded six goals in their last seven league matches, compared to their record of 42 conceded from the first 24 games of the campaign.