Proud of his past at Athletic, Sevilla striker Fernando Llorente knows he will have to get past his old side if he is to win a first major European trophy after two final losses.
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An Athletic player from 2005–13, Sevilla forward Fernando Llorente told UEFA.com it will be strange to face his old team in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, with the 31-year-old hoping this will be the year he wins his first major European trophy after two painful near-misses.
UEFA.com: When you saw Sevilla drawn against Athletic in the quarter-finals, what did you think?
Fernando Llorente: It was a surprise having to face the club where I started playing but it will be nice. It will be strange as well, though, because I spent 17 wonderful years of my life in Bilbao. I am proud to have come through a big club like Athletic. It was always an honour to play for them. Now it is my turn to play against them, and I will give everything for the Sevilla shirt. It will certainly be a very hard match. They have a great team and they've been playing really well in the last year.
UEFA.com: You reached the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League final with Athletic, losing to Atlético Madrid. What do you remember about that campaign?
Llorente: It was a great season. I still remember the matches against Manchester United, Schalke and Sporting. But our performance in the final was poor. It was a pity, because you get there very excited and in the end the day turns into a huge disappointment. We had no experience in matches like that, whereas Atlético did everything right that day. Falcao scored a great goal and from then on they dominated. There were so many fans there and we wanted to make them happy and lift the trophy for them, but it was not possible.
UEFA.com: You joined Sevilla at the start of the season after a spell in Italy with Juventus. How are you enjoying it?
Llorente: The first few months were not easy, because I had some fitness problems and I still don't feel 100%. But I have improved, I feel better now and I feel I'm playing an important role in the team. Unai Emery was the one who wanted me. It was the best thing to join a great side like Sevilla, a club capable of winning four Europa Leagues. I hope we can get that far again, I hope to enjoy something as special as winning the Europa League.
UEFA.com: Sevilla are looking to make history and become the first team to lift the UEFA Europa League trophy for three successive seasons. Do the squad believe it can happen?
Llorente: Sevilla have a real desire to win this competition. It would be unique and quite incredible, because I don't think any team have done it three years in a row. I'm really enjoying this competition – it brings back wonderful memories of my Athletic days – as are my team-mates who have had such success in the Europa League.
UEFA.com: You have been a UEFA Europa League runner-up with Athletic and then a UEFA Champions League runner-up with Juventus last term. What would it mean to finally win a trophy?
Llorente: I really want it. Both the Europa League and the Champions League finals were good experiences but had a bad outcome. It's like a thorn in your side that you want to remove but you never know when you might have the chance. I hope it happens this season.