As Leicester push to secure a place in this season’s Top 4, it seems as though they are already planning for next season in the Champions League.
Currently sitting in 3rd place, 8 points clear of fifth placed Manchester United, the Foxes are looking to strengthen their squad ahead of a potential Champions League campaign with the addition of William Carvalho.
The Real Betis midfielder, 28, has reportedly agreed personal terms with Brendan Rodgers’ side over a transfer to the Premier League. While the reports state that a fee between the clubs is yet to be agreed, it’s likely that this won’t prove to be a big stumbling block considering they’ve made moves to agree a contract with the player.
Carvalho is a Portugal international and was a key part of the midfield that won Euro 2016. A sitting midfielder who is incredibly comfortable on the ball, there have been doubts over whether or not his mobility (or lack of) could be a problem for him in England.
He has previously been linked with moves to Manchester United and Arsenal while he was at Sporting CP, and while those moves never materialised it wasn’t due to his lack of talent. Both clubs eventually signed different midfielders instead, which left Carvalho in Portugal. He then took the first route out of his first professional club, moving to Spain in 2018.
Leicester are not short in the central midfield department though. With Wilfried Ndidi, Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet and Hamza Chowdhury already in the side it’s hard to see how Carvalho walks into the side and demands a starting place. Tielemans is one of the elite prospects in world football and is more offensive minded anyway. Praet only signed last summer and has been used in a rotation role, while Chowdhury is an academy graduate. That leaves Ndidi, who has long been linked with a move away.
The Nigeria international is seen as one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League, with his long limbs helping him to win the ball back more times than anyone else on average in the division. Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United have all been linked in the past and this move could be seen as a replacement for him.
Personally, I don’t see Ndidi leaving this summer. He’s still young at only 23 years old, so replacing him with a 28 year old would be an odd decision. Especially when they have Hamza Chowdhury there already, waiting for a real first-team chance in that position. With Leicester likely to be in the Champions League next season too and the schedule likely to be crazier than usual, they need more options. Tactical flexibility is something Rodgers will want should they come up against Europe’s elite and Carvalho can offer that extra defensive base.
The most likely outcome here is that Leicester go with all 5 central midfield options in their squad for next season and re-evaluate in January, with my bets going on Praet to move abroad during the mid-season transfer window next year in search of more regular football. Either way, Carvalho is a fantastic signing for Leicester and bolsters them in the right place, likely for a great price.