Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa at Goodison Park

Darren Bent has insisted it would be “perfect” for Diego Llorente to play for Leeds United under-23s before stepping up his return from injury.

The former Tottenham and England striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, admitted it would be a mistake to throw the Spain international “in at the deep end” after his lack of game time this season.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Thursday, as relayed by Leeds Live, Bielsa confirmed the 27-year-old had fully recovered from his groin injury but that he hoped to give the Spain international minutes in the under-23s first.

Llorente, who signed from Real Sociedad over the summer, is yet to make his debut for the Whites due to his injury problems.

Bent has urged Bielsa to stick to his plan of using him in the reserves and warned he could struggle with his fitness and stamina if thrown straight into a Premier League match.

Bent told Football Insider: There’s no point in throwing him in if he’s not ready. If he’s not ready, under-23 games are perfect game just to get him up to speed, get a bit of fitness behind him.

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“That’d be the perfect scenario. The last thing you want to do is Premier League, new season, star player, you throw him in at the deep end, he’s not quite ready, ain’t quite got his lungs yet and he struggles.

Leeds United boss

“I think under-23s football, as much as I don’t really like under-23s football, I don’t think it’s particularly great, for players coming back from injury I think it’s so crucial, just to get minutes under their belt. In that regard, I can fully understand Bielsa not wanting to rush him.”

Llorente has featured once as an unused substitute for Leeds since his move from Spain, with the likes of Liam Cooper, Robin Koch, Pascal Struijk and Luke Ayling all having filled in at centre-back this season.

In other news, Noel Whelan fears a “career-threatening” blow for Leeds United player.