Leicester City have announced the signing of Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare. The 22-year-old France under-21 international played 40 matches for Les Dogues in 2020/21, starting 25. Born in the Parisian suburb of Noisy-le-Sec, Soumare also holds Senegalese citizenship. He came up through the Paris FC academy system, joining the club at age 7. He spent one season at Paris St. Germain, making 8 appearances for the B team before switching to Lille in 2017.
We're delighted to confirm the signing of midfielder @B_Soumare24 from Ligue 1 champions Lille for an undisclosed fee, subject to Premier League and international clearance— Leicester City (@LCFC) July 2, 2021
Enough of the biographical information. We’ve been waiting over a month to announce our first, er, second...strike that, make it third signing of the summer. Let’s get down to it boppers and see what kind of player we have!
This image, while not especially exciting-looking, sums up Soumare’s contributions this year quite nicely. He’s good in the air, he’s a tidy passer of the ball, and he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. It’s also worth noting that, while he’s been billed as a defensive midfielder, he’s much more of an old-school between-the-boxes guy. At age 22, he’s a solid, above-average central midfielder. That’s a good start! Now, let’s compare him to our existing deep midfielders and try to figure out how he fits in the squad.
Soumare v. Wilfred Ndidi
Let’s just get this out of the way. Soumare is not Wilfred Ndidi because no one else is Wilfred Ndidi. It’s barely plausible that Wilfred Ndidi is Wilfred Ndidi. What this chart shows is interesting, though: Soumare is essentially Wilf’s equal in every aspect except for aerial duels and defending. Also, it’s worth noting that Soumare actually contributes more in the middle of the park, while Ndidi has more impact at the defensive end and, marginally, in attack.
Soumare v. Youri Tielemans
My first takeaway here is: “Goodness, the Ndidi/Tielemans partnership is good.” So, is Soumare the next Tielemans? Not yet, at least. He matches Youri pretty well until you get to the more attacking side of things, where the Belgian’s ability to pick out passes and his shooting move him well ahead of our newest recruit. Again, Soumare is the busier of the two in the middle of the field and he has more impact in defense, but he’s well behind in attacking contributions.
Soumare vs. Nampalys Mendy
This is where Soumare’s value to Leicester gets a little clearer. Even though he’s only 22, Soumare is already as good or better than Mendy is in every aspect. He’s also more active in every area of the pitch. Next year, when either Ndidi or Tielemans are unavailable or need a break, Rodgers will have a more attractive option available for selection.
So, on the face of it, it looks like Soumare will primarily be taking time from Mendy. But, will there be any other players impacted by his arrival? Maybe! Dennis Praet is primarily an attacking midfielder so he won’t be directly competing for minutes with Soumare, but the presence of the former Lille midfielder may tempt Rodgers to move Tielemans forward into more of an attacking role.
The wild card here is Luton Town’s Player of the Season, Kieran Dewsbury-Hall. The academy product will presumably compete for a place in the senior squad next year, having nothing left to prove at any lower level. Dewsbury-Hall, like Soumare, is very much a central midfielder without the “attacking” or “defensive” appellation. Having KDH and Soumare in the squad means that, when there’s an injury to Ndidi or Tieleman (or, God save us all, both), we’ll have more than enough depth to cope.