Youri Tielemans’ Form A Delight & A Concern For Leicester
April 30, 2019
“It is never easy when you are trying to bring in players to improve the squad,” Brendan Rodgers said last week as the season approaches its conclusion. Rather than talk of a fresh target, though, Rodgers is referring to a player in his squad: Youri Tielemans, who has been a revelation since his January arrival on loan from Monaco.
The young Belgian was allowed to leave France following Leonardo Jardim’s return as boss and after Monaco’s turbulent start to the campaign, Tielemans is benefitting from a period consistent playing time in a stable environment under a manager whose progressive approach suits the goalgetting youngster.
However, in a double-edged sword conundrum, Tielemans’ good form at the King Power Stadium will attract the bigger fish. The Foxes may have won the Premier League more recently than the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal, but the lure of regular Champions League action is a pull that outweighs the prospect of fighting to be the best of the rest.
Leicester’s title success only served for their star men to depart, with N’Golo Kante leaving after his successful debut campaign in England’s top tier, while Riyad Mahrez followed him out of the King Power exit just 12 months later. That’s not to say Leicester don’t have the staying power to convince their prized assets to remain in the Midlands – Jamie Vardy previously turned down a move to Arsenal in favour of staying – however players are keen on regularly testing their skills against the best in the Champions League, which Leicester won’t afford Tielemans next season. Both parties are profiting from Tielemans’ fine form in English football, yet the Belgian may look to instead use Leicester as a stepping stone to further his career.
Having won the Belgian Young Professional Footballer of the Year in his first two seasons after turning professional, interest in Tielemans from a young age was always going to be high from Europe’s elite sides, so for Monaco to secure his services in 2017 was a coup. In the south of France, his career and development stalled, with the player hardly in favour under Jardim.
Tielemans earned further playing time during Thierry Henry’s doomed reign at the Stade Louis II helm, yet Monaco’s dire form saw the Frenchman leave and Jardim reappointed, which effectively signalled the end of his time in France. In Rodgers’ 4-3-3 setup, and with the safety net of Wilfred Ndidi guarding the backline, Tielemans has the freedom to push on and support the attack, which given the runs of Vardy to push defences back, means he has ample space to punish opponents.
It has seen Tielemans return three goals and fours assists across 11 league outings for Leicester since his January arrival, while no Premier League midfielder has had a direct in more goals than the Belgium international (7) since he made his debut in Leicester’s 3-1 loss at Tottenham back in February, as per WhoScored.com. These have come at key moments too, with his goals and assists helping Leicester to an additional three points this season, while it was his header that set the Foxes on their way to victory against Arsenal on Sunday.
Leicester now end the season with tough meetings with Manchester City and Chelsea, but conversely; this provides Tielemans with the opportune time to really showcase his talent. He ranks fourth for key passes per 90 (1.6) of all Leicester players, as per WhoScored.com, and it’s this creative weapon in his arsenal that both teams need to fear as City chase the title and Chelsea strive to secure a top four finish. It’s also one of the primary reasons why Leicester are reportedly prepared to make Tielemans their club-record capture, trumping the £28m they paid Sporting to sign Islam Slimani back in 2016.
Each impressive showing is a catch-22 for the Foxes, though. Tielemans has showcased his incredible talent on more than one occasion for Leicester and as an audition for the Premier League; he has passed with flying colours. Yet this only makes it harder for Leicester to retain his services in the long term. What is a certainty, however, is that after a spell out of the limelight, Tielemans has made a blistering return to centre stage and its his name that will be one that dons the gossip columns this summer as teams take stock of his excellent performances in England and prepare a plan to lure him away from the King Power Stadium.