Diego Llorente’s phone had become a serious classroom distraction.
“I was receiving WhatsApps, messages, calls, the phone kept vibrating. I knew something was happening,” the man on loan at Malaga from Real Madrid told Goal.
“I left class to see what was going on and I didn’t believe it. I had to check to make sure it wasn’t a joke.”
When Llorente returned, and explained his absence, the students in the room rose to their feet, applauding. The young man doing his teacher’s training that May afternoon in 2016 had just become a Spain international.
That the 23-year-old Llorente is already preparing for life after football is proof enough that he is far from the typical Real Madrid player.
An intelligent young man and diligent worker both on and off the field, Llorente is continuing his footballing education this season in Andalusia, on loan with Malaga.
It’s been quite an experience for the Madrid-born defender, living away from the Spanish capital for the first time.
He arrived following an impressive spell with Rayo Vallecano last season and was expected to play a leading role with his new club, but inconsistent results for a team playing under their third coach of the season have hardly made for a stable environment.
But Real Madrid have supported their student every step of the way.
"When I was injured they were worried about me, and when I wasn't playing much at the start of the season, they gave me support,” he told AS.
Selected as one of Goal’s 50 Rising Stars of FUT, Llorente is back fighting fit and starred this past weekend, inspiring his side to the result of the weekend in Spain as they saw off Barcelona, 2-0.
Barcelona had not lost in their last 10 trips to La Rosaleda in La Liga, their last defeat arriving way back in 2003, and new Malaga coach Michel had lost all six of his matches against Barca in his career.
But on Saturday the hosts turned the form book on its head, putting in a remarkable team performance encapsulated by a wonderfully assured and mature display from Llorente, who was particularly impressive up against Luis Suarez.
Llorente’s showing ensured the Uruguay international was unable to shake off his record of Malaga being the only Liga team against whom he is yet to find the net.
The 23-year-old made three interceptions, three clearances and emerged victorious from four of his six duels on the night as he continued to frustrate Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar.
That frustration eventually boiled over as Neymar received a red card for a foul on Llorente.
"I don't ask [about next year], that's something I'll think about at the end of the season,” the defender said last week.
Others, however, may well be. And no doubt a few of his former teachers had his phone buzzing once more as Llorente’s showing helped ensure Real Madrid moved three points clear of Barcelona at the top of the table this weekend.