According to reports today, Leicester City are considering a £20m bid for 18 year old Nice defender Malang Sarr. The Foxes are apparently planning to scout the player further in Nice’s Champions League qualifier against Ajax on August 2nd.
Obviously that’s a huge sum for a teenage defender, but Sarr appears to be no normal talent. After breaking into the first team at Nice at just 17 years old, he was listed by the Guardian last October amongst their 60 best young talents in world football, in which they scoured the world for the most exciting prospects born in 1999 (with a January birthday, Sarr is one of the youngest on the list).
The young frenchman didn't just break into the first team squad this year, he became a truly reliable first team regular, playing 31 times as Nice went on to finish 3rd in the league. Earlier this summer, JJ Bull of the Telegraph released his list of the 50 best young talents in world football, including players up to 21. The 18 year old Sarr was ranked 31st.
Malang Sarr: Made more clearances (84) than any other teenager in Europe's top 5 leagues last season pic.twitter.com/YPEVzxHKUq— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 13, 2017
Obviously that’s just one man’s very subjective ranking, but his presence anywhere on these lists suggests a very talented player.
It should also be a list of some interest for Leicester City fans. Joining Sarr in the 30s were Real Madrid’s huge money signing Vinicius Junior (39), Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches and two 20 year old Nigerians: Kelechi Iheanacho (35) and Wilfred Ndidi (33).
Leicester City are currently trying to get a bit younger, and bringing in three of the best under 21 players in the world in a six month period would be a pretty good start.
I can’t claim to have watched any of his career so far, short as it has been, but the consensus appears to be of a high quality player. There’s a lot for him still to build on, it would seem, and his positioning and decisions could use some work, but that’s what young defenders are supposed to look like.
The fact that his mental game was advanced enough to let him play at all in one of Europe’s top leagues at the age of 17 is actually incredibly impressive, especially as that time has included switching back and forth between a back thee and four. It seems like he’s decent on the ball as well.
Surprised 18 yr old CB talent Malang Sarr has not been scooped up yet. Incredible passing+def (video:@Liberobility) pic.twitter.com/tl8Wwp54zf— Moby LFC (@MobyHaque) July 17, 2017
Undoubtedly looks like an exciting talent, and we know the Foxes are looking to strengthen at the back this summer. So, what are the chances of this deal getting done?
In their story today, the Mercury say that Sarr will be allowed to leave Nice this year if they fail to beat Ajax and qualify of the Champions League. That would be a good sign, but they’ll still be in the Europa League. Would he leave Nice for a team with no European involvement like Leicester?
At (very slightly) under six foot, he also doesn't really fit the mold of Leicester City centre backs. With Harry Maguire though we do look to be moving slowly towards defenders who can play a bit of football.
There’s also, err, some degree of competition.
Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid trying to sign Nice centre back Malang Sarr. £36m release clause. 18-year-old also watched by Arsenal— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) July 21, 2017
So yeah. We probably aren't top of his list and that’s probably going to drive the price up from the £20m mentioned; £36m for a defender with one year of professional experience would be some gamble. Personally, it’s a gamble I’d love to see us making, but then it’s not my money. I won’t be ordering my Sarr shirt just yet.
Still, the take home message is that the club are showing real ambition in their young targets. In Ndidi and (eventually) Iheanacho they already (will) have two very exciting prospects, before including the likes of England under 21 duo Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray.
If we keep adding to that list, the future will be very bight indeed.