Tielemans: The Ace Fox in Leicester’s Skulk

Leicester City have broken their transfer record for the second time in less than a week to complete the signing of 22-year-old Belgium international midfielder Youri Tielemans, for a reported £40m.

Having spent spent the second-half of last season on loan at the King Power Stadium, the Foxes were successful in chasing off apparent interest from the likes of Manchester United to finalise a permanent deal for the exciting young playmaker (widely regarded as one the brightest talents in European football), enhancing the air of optimism around the city, as the new Premier League season draws closer.

The move follows the £30m acquisition of Ayoze Perez from Newcastle on Thursday, and speaking today about the capture, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has expressed his delight: “I’m delighted that Youri has chosen to be part of Leicester City’s journey. It’s an incredibly exciting time for this football club and to be able to bring players of Youri’s quality here is an indication of the hunger for success we have”.

A player at the right end of his 20s, with experience in the World Cup, Champions League and three top-flight European leagues, Leicester have secured a player who could, without doubt, play for any side in the Premier League. That said, the 2016 champions, at £40m, have perhaps paid a fee substantially beneath that which Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and even Spurs (in light of their £63m paid to another French club [Lyon] for a similarly touted midfield starlet [Tanguy Ndombele, also 22]) would’ve been charged for Tielemans’ services.

Indeed, the fairy tale of three years ago may have reverberated around football world, but without forthcoming involvement in European competition, opportunistic recognition from other clubs of any such desperation to fix their squad (much like Leicester themselves’ rather extortionate demands to ‘crisis-ridden’ United for Harry Maguire) or any frivolous examples of Leicester waving wads of cash around, they’ve sealed a bargain deal for somebody whose value will almost certainly increase; and swiftly too.

Moreover, in expansion to the factor of no European football at the King Power, Rodgers’ young, liberated regime has the ideal mix of realistic league ambition (that being to, at least, challenge the monopoly of the top 6), a fresh feel-good factor and a clear footballing philosophy; without the derailing proposition of the Europa League.

The addition of Tielemans may well prove to be the most influential of any made by Leicester this summer, as he is perfect for a plethora of in-game scenarios: likely to excel again (this time to an even greater degree) as the more advanced midfield force alongside the ever-maturing tenacious pair of Wilfred Ndidi and Hamza Choudhury, the Belgian has the ability to orchestrate a front-footed possession game, as well as utilise that same technical adeptness in the form of ball retention to conserve results and also serve the ever-green explosiveness of Jamie Vardy during matches suiting a counter-attacking approach.

In light of Tielemans’ permanent arrival, a signature of such pedigree both justifies the excitement ahead of Rodgers’ first full season and emphasises the statement and view to progression required to convince the likes of Ben Chilwell and much sought-after Harry Maguire to remain part of the venture. Tielemans’ performances towards the back end of the season, notably an authoritative display in the 3-0 victory over Arsenal in April, were certainly worthy of other potential suitors. However, his readiness to return to the East Midlands, with such a way still to go in the window, epitomises the infectious spirit and anticipation surrounding the club, spanning the gateway period from May to imminent August.

Having scored 3 times in his 13 Premier League appearances last term, Tielemans also has 23 caps and a single international goal to his name. Goals are certainly a commodity he’ll be looking to add more regularly to his game, though it’s something he’s in a fantastic position to do, playing for attack-minded club and international [Roberto Martínez] coaches; whilst training and lining up, several times a year, alongside one of the world’s foremost goalscoring midfield players: Kevin De Bruyne. Of course, there’s much more too for him to learn from the Man City star.

Furthermore, though he scored just once for Monaco in 2017/18, struggling also with the team during the first-half of their chaotic 2018/19 campaign, an excellent tally of 18 goals from midfield during his final season at Anderlecht (before moving to France for €25m in May 2017) reminds us that that particular trait is there.

In the name of team development, the buy represents the continuation of a project at Leicester which is very much in its infancy. Initially loaned back in January by Frenchman Claude Puel to fit into his patient and retentive style of play, it took a month for Tielemans to hit his capable stride, amid turmoil and swelling toxicity surrounding the aforementioned manager. Though in the weeks following Puel’s February sacking, he would become instrumental in a run of 5 wins (and just 2 losses) from the Foxes’ final 9 league fixtures; much accreditable to Rodgers’ more emancipated incarnation of the Frenchman’s possession-based football. The Belgian started every game of the run-in, impressing too as Leicester held Man City for 70 minutes at the Etihad in May, frustrating the free-scoring (eventual) champions until Vincent Kompany’s iconic piledriver.

All in all, Leicester have pulled off a major coup. The Foxes face 5 of last season’s the top 7 in their opening 8 league games, including a trip to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea on matchday 2. Indeed, with such a tricky start, optimism could quickly turn to pressure, so it will be interesting to see how Tielemans, as promising and classy as he is, may react to an adverse run of results. Particularly in light of his involvement in Monaco’s capitulation from last season’s outset. That said, he and this dangerous, yet foundationally robust (allowing the likes of the Belgian to express himself) Leicester side will no doubt revel in the prospect of quieting what will be a euphoric Stamford Bridge during Lampard’s homecoming.

So all things considered, this is how Leicester, by virtue of their squad today, may line-up against Wolves on 11th August:

Leicester lineup

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