Boubakary Soumare's choice: Manchester United or Chelsea?
Stamford Bridge image: Andreus Hundt | Old Trafford: Andre Zahn, CC BY-SA 2.0 de
More than halfway through the January transfer window, many clubs haven’t filled their needs. Among those sides, Chelsea and Manchester United struggle with consistency, injuries and for a top-four place. Searching for reinforcements, both are heavily linked with Boubakary Soumare.
A Paris Saint-Germain academy graduate, Soumare joined Lille in 2017 and developed considerably with Les Dogues. Capped in France's U21 squad, he is yet to make his national debut.
A skillful defensive midfielder, the 20-year-old is a ferocious tackler rarely beaten by defenders. In possession, he is a pass-master with a 91% completion rate. Controlling play for Lille, he doesn’t give away possession cheaply. Able to create space through quick sets of short passes and layovers, he is composed under pressure. His dribbling ability contributes to his ability to move the squad up the pitch, as does his vision and anticipation. In a 4-2-3-1, Soumare partners Benjamin Andre.
Many people talk about his box-to-box abilities but such discussions belie his attacking skills. He isn't the most creative midfielder. His cautious nature doesn't suit any attacking midfield responsibilities. He hasn't scored or assisted a teammate this season. It's not a concern for a club seeking a d-mid but it speaks to his limitations.
While his broad, tall build usually gives him physical superiority, he isn't the quickest and makes rash tackles. Top clubs will accept a diamond in the rough, however. Outside of Wilfred Ndidi, there are virtually no polished holding midfielders under the age of 25. Both United and Chelsea invest in youth these days.
How would he fit for each? Glad you asked.
The Red Devils are in a midfield crisis. After failing to sign replacements for Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera, injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay leave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer short in the middle of the park. Fred and Nemanja Matic hold down the fort at the moment but the manager demonstrates a reluctance to play academy starlet James Garner.
Although McTominay will be back, United can use Soumare now. Still, with Matic expected to leave in the summer, the Frenchman represents more than a short-term fix.
@SkyKaveh has all the latest as Lille's Boubakary Soumare is set to decide between Manchester United or Chelsea - plus some news from @skysports_sheth on Bruno Fernandes...👀
Chelsea enjoy a surplus of midfielders. Jorginho runs the show with Mateo Kovacic an able deputy and N'Golo Kante shunted into other roles. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is set to return in the bargain. Kante's rumoured departure in the summer creates a depth problem. Soumare could be a target in that regard. The question is whether he'll come to a club where he'll play far less?
If we're being honest, neither club should sign the youngster. Chelsea's reasons are obvious but United shouldn't panic. The last thing Ed Woodward needs is another signing who screams desperation. The Red Devils need a midfielder but shouldn't shell out millions of pounds on yet another “high risk-medium reward” signing.
Moving makes little sense for Soumare as well. He should stay at Lille and continue developing his game with regular playing time. His potential is untapped. His future lies at a bigger club but not this soon.
Nor should he worry interest will dry up. Lille chief Gerard Lopez claims Jose Mourinho is a big fan. Mourinho has a thing for d-mids. Claudio Makelele, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, Matic, McTominay. If the Special One can get his Tottenham rebuild off the ground, the first rumour you hear in the summer might be Boubakary Soumare to Spurs.