There is tons of juice dripping from these transfer rumors on Sunday, fascinating fodder for the summer ahead of us.
Leicester City is at the heart of these rumors, which number at least a half-dozen, and it does not feel goofy at all to say that the September home of the man at the center of them could swing the Premier League.
So, let’s go down a rabbit hole that revolves around Youri Tielemans but could figure heavily into the futures of Manchester United, Lille, Liverpool, Celtic, and many more notable European clubs.
Rumor time starts…. now (or below the jump).
Tielemans to Manchester United, Keita to Leicester City, Keita to Liverpool!
If you’re familiar with our transfer buzz posts you’ll recognize that the headings for these rumors are usually as simple as “Player X to Club Y” but holy cow does this report from the Leicester Mercury demand more from our heading!
Quoting several other reports, the Mercury says that Leicester City could have no choice but to accept a big bid for influential midfielder Youri Tielemans and implies that the club could have to choose between big money from Manchester United and a lesser fee but a requited swap target from Liverpool.
Let’s start with Tielemans, who has been as gushed over on this site as any player outside of a traditional top-six power.
The 24-year-old chewed up 4,400-plus minutes for Brendan Rodgers this season, scoring nine times with six assists. He went 90 minutes in 35 of 38 PL matches, otherwise going 87, 88, and 33. How lazy.
Kidding aside, there’s reason to wonder if Leicester should be considering whatever wage Tielemans could possibly want to stick around and help them vie for a Champions League place, because he’s just turned 24 and only five players completed more passes than him over the 2020-21 PL season (Rodri, Ruben Dias, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Andy Robertson, and James Ward-Prowse). Additionally, his 52 key passes say just outside the Premier League’s top 20
And frankly whoever is going to pay for Tielemans ought to force the issue before EURO 2020, when Tielemans may combine with Kevin De Bruyne to produce one of the more sensational midfield performances in UEFA history when Belgium begins its quest for a historic trophy. Consider that Tielemans (85th percentile) and De Bruyne (99th percentile) combine to produce 9.38 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes according to FBRef.com. The percentiles aren’t in the Premier League but in the top five European leagues and European competition.
But let’s say Leicester is willing to sell because they can land Boubakary Soumare, who is two years younger, just won Ligue 1 with Lille, and has an incredible knack for reading the game defensively even if he has similar shortcomings to Tielemans in that zone.
This is where Leicester would be considered to be “in the catbird seat” because there are reports that the Foxes could land Soumare for a silly, silly, silly — did we say silly? — $27 million.
They have so many great options, including keeping Tielemans, selling him for crazy money and reinvesting (the club’s been linked with Celtic’s Odsonne “French Eddy” Edouard as well as Soumare), or selling him and getting a Liverpool player they reportedly covet.
The Foxes could choose to:
- Keep Tielemans and buy Soumare. This would allow the younger Soumare to adapt to the Premier League and learn from Tielemans while pushing a player who will, theoretically, have played a ton of minutes well into the summer.
- Sell Tielemans to Manchester United or another team for the maximum fee. Balance the books, so to speak, while potentially fortifying the club with any number of players on an already solid roster that includes Wesley Fofana, Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes…
- Sell Tielemans for less to Liverpool but get Naby Keita in the fold. We don’t know what went wrong between Jurgen Klopp buying a player from RB Leipzig who checked every box of what those Reds needed — for Keita, by the way. Liverpool has done okay — but Keita and Ndidi together could allow everyone in front of them on the pitch to do whatever the heck they want.
- Sell Tielemans to someone outside England. You could argue that, assuming there’s a Soumare or similar talent there to replace Tielemans, getting big money for the Belgian and sending him far from an opposing touch line would be the best possible outcome.
There are downsides, too. Not that any team can just magically produce a like-for-like replacement for N’Golo Kante, but selling the Ballon d’Or caliber midfielder and not adequately addressing the departure as the club managed PL and Champions League campaign saw them drop to 12th place and 44 points the year after the PL title. Relegation was not out of the question until the club bought Ndidi in January following a stop-start start from summer buy Nampalys Mendy.
But (so many italics in this post) they’ll have learned from that and it sounds nutty but Rodgers’ project is on better footing that the Claudio Ranieri one that snuck up on everyone and won the league while capturing the imaginations of so many around the globe.
Would you sell him?
Now what about Liverpool? The addition of Tielemans is one of the very few upgrades available to the departing Georginio Wijnaldum, especially since Klopp did not hand the Dutchman the freedom he gets from country and got from Newcastle. This would be a huge add to Liverpool, especially since it cuts directly from rivals Manchester United while shaking free of the Keita failure.
As for Man United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be able to either move Paul Pogba to the left wing or take that long-rumored sweet over-priced offer from Real Madrid for the Frenchman while he’s still in his prime (28).
However it shakes out, it feels like Tielemans’ destination — or statics — could go a long way to determining the season and transfer market outlook for three European contenders in England.