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Why signing Youri Tielemans is a great move by Leicester

Wednesday 6th February 2019
Tielemans is one of the hottest prospects in European football. Can he live up to that reputation in the Premier League?
Tielemans is one of the hottest prospects in European football. Can he live up to that reputation in the Premier League?

Leicester City confirmed the capture of AS Monaco midfielder Youri Tielemans on deadline day. The 21-year-old signed on loan until the end of the season in a deal that involved Adrien Silva going the opposite way.

The signing of Tielemans has caused excitement among the King Power faithful. Securing the services of a Belgium international midfielder, even if it’s only on a temporary deal for now. It is an opportunity that you just don’t turn down

Despite his tender years, Tielemans already has a wealth of experience in the game. He started his career at 34-time Belgian League winners RSC Anderlecht, making his debut at just 16-years of age. The midfielder went onto make 185 appearances for the club, including becoming the youngest ever Belgian to appear in the Champions League. Again, he was just 16. 35 goals and 31 assists for Anderlecht caught the eye of some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

May 2017 saw Tielemans join the Ligue 1 Champions Monaco after a fee of £21million plus bonuses was agreed. The player reportedly turned down interest from Manchester City in favour of a move to France.

The move didn’t work as well as Tielemans would have hoped. He was in and out of the side during the 2017/18 season, registering just one goal and two assists in all competitions for his new club. Monaco finished as runners up in Ligue 1, 13 points behind Paris Saint-Germain.

After returning from a successful World Cup campaign with his country, the first half of the 2018/19 season had been more productive for the midfielder. He was a regular starter under new manager Thierry Henry, scoring 5 goals in 20 appearances. However, while Tielemans' stats improved, his team found themselves falling down the table. So-much-so, that they are now in real danger of relegation to Ligue 2. The team’s poor form meant that Leonardo Jardim came in to reclaim his place as manager, replacing Henry.

Henry’s departure and Jardim’s reappointment alerted clubs to the possible availability of Tielemans.

Jardim’s past association with out-of-favour Leicester midfielder Adrien Silva put the Foxes firmly in the driving seat. (Jardim was Silva’s manager for one season at Sporting CP). Leicester was able to fight off interest from other clubs such as Tottenham and Manchester United to agree a loan swap for Tielemans.

14 seconds could have been all the difference for Silva. After missing the deadline by that amount in summer 2017, the midfielder had to sit out six months of the season. He has never really recovered or adapted to English football. A fresh start in Monaco may just be what the Portugal international needs. To bring in Tielemans as a like for like replacement is brilliant business by Leicester.

Tielemans is a box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal. Despite being young, he arrives at the King Power Stadium as one of the most experienced central midfielders in Claude Puel’s squad in terms of senior appearances. Only Nampalys Mendy has made more. 

After signing on loan, the midfielder talked about his role in the team.

I think it’s (box-to-box) my best position, but I can play in every position in midfield. Whenever the coach needs me, I can play in no.6, no.8 or no.10, but it’s true that I’m mostly a box-to-box player.
I like to attack. I think as a midfielder it’s really dangerous when you have a midfielder coming from the second line and trying to shoot or get into the box. It’s always difficult to defend and I try to add this to my game. I think it will help the team.
Being in front of the goal is my nature, but I like to defend also, helping the team and being compact. That’s important too.

Puel’s usual lineup includes both Nampalys Mendy and Wilfred Ndidi in the central areas. Both are defensive midfielders. Hamza Choudhury is also making a good claim for a regular first team place. He is a defensive midfielder. Playing two, or even three defensive-minded midfielders against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool has been effective. They provide a good shield in front of the defence. But there has been no denying that Leicester are still looking for a more creative edge, especially against teams that are traditionally seen as ‘easier’. Tielemans’ attacking prowess may just provide Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and Demarai Gray midfield service and support that has been somewhat lacking.  

At just 21, the midfielder is still in the early part of his career and joins a squad of players who are in similar positions. Leicester’s starting lineup against Manchester United included five players aged 22 or under, including academy graduates Harvey Barnes and Ben Chilwell. Tielemans is another option for Puel, who is not afraid to put his faith in young players. Puel has previously managed to get the best out of a young Eden Hazard and Hatem Ben Arfa.

The one aspect of the deal that is concerning some Leicester fans is that it is just a temporary one, with no option to buy at the end. Good performances will put Tielemans in the shop window for other clubs to try and snatch from under Leicester’s nose. This is where the young squad could serve as an advantage for the Foxes. If the player settles well at the club and can see himself developing alongside his teammates, he will be likely to prefer a more permanent switch to the King Power. Puel will also have Silva as a bargaining chip for negotiations with Tielemans' parent club.

Overall, the move can only be an advantage to Puel and Leicester. They are getting the services of one of the most promising midfielders in Europe (I’m sure Football Manager players would agree). A player who could just add the spark that the midfield area has been missing. If Tielemans does play to his potential in the blue shirt, then that can only be a good thing for Claude Puel and Leicester City, both in the present and in the future. 

Amie Wilson

A lifelong football & Leicester City fan, who can be often found at the King Power StadiumĀ at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. I still think about the 15/16 season every day! IĀ sometimes talk about sport on the radio, and am a graduate of the BBC Kick Off scheme.

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