Youri Tielemans is a name that a vast number of footballing fans know… and not for the reason that you would normally expect. The young Belgian has long been touted as a future star, a central midfielder with the potential to be one of the best in the world. For years he has been the ultimate Football Manager or FIFA Career Mode purchase. This is the reason that many fans know his name. This is why so many people are excited to see what impact he can make in the Premier League.
Debut with Anderlecht
Tielemans burst onto the scene in 2013 with his hometown club Anderlecht, making his professional debut at just 16 years old – the fourth youngest player to ever make an appearance in the Belgian Pro League (now the Belgian First Division A). The youngster had come through the ranks as part of the colossal Belgian club’s youth system, which he had been part of since 2002 – when he was just five years old.
He made his professional debut as a substitute against Lokeren, replacing the injured Sacha Kljestan. It didn’t take long for him to make his presence known in the league, going on to make almost 70 appearances in his first two years, as well as picking up the Belgian Young Footballer of the Year award in his first two professional seasons.
After these two incredibly impressive seasons, especially for a player as young as 18, there was significant buzz around Tielemans. Already we were seeing speculation and interest from a vast number of Europe’s biggest clubs, however the Belgian starlet decided to bide his time and remain at Anderlecht to continue honing his game and growing as a player. It’s a trap that we see many young stars fall into – having a breakout season, securing a big move, and then being loaned out to various different clubs before ultimately fizzling out.
Tielemans continued to impress throughout the 2015-16 season, picking up six goals in 36 appearances for the Purple and White. However it was the 2016-17 season in which he really took off, rather than showing glimpses of the potential we all knew he had, it felt like the young star had really arrived.
Tielemans scored 13 goals in 37 games in the Pro League, helping push Anderlecht on to their first title win since his debut season. Alongside this he won a number of individual awards, such as; the Ebony Shoe award (given to the best African or African origin player in the Pro League), the Belgian Professional Footballer of the Year award, and was named in the Europa League squad of the season.
Struggles in France
It was after this season that Tielemans made his long awaited big money move, leaving Anderlecht and heading to reigning Ligue 1 Champions A.S. Monaco for a fee around €25 million. A lot was expected of Tielemans, as Monaco were struggling to hold on to a number of their key players such as Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar.
Unfortunately, his time in France has not provided the same kind of high level and consistent performances that we were used to during his time in Belgium. There have certainly been glimpses of his talent, as he has so far this season scored five goals and laid on a vast number of chances for a struggling Monaco side, however it is telling that a side currently sitting just 19th in the table would be willing to loan out one of their brightest young talents. His struggles have been so bad at times that France Football even went as far to name his as one of their biggest flops of the year.
The loan deal sees Adrien Silva go in the opposite direction, a player who is highly rated by recently reinstated manager Leonardo Jardim. It may be slightly worrying that Monaco were willing to send Tielemans to Leicester in return for a player in Silva that has barely been able to break into the starting XI at the King Power and has only made one start under Claude Puel this season.
The struggles that Tielemans have faced during his time at Monaco cannot be solely attributed to him, it has been a turbulent time for the club overall, and very few players have made it through the past two years with a positive shine. In fact it is entirely possible that a fresh start at Leicester could be exactly what he needs to kickstart his career once more, and return to the form that we know he can produce.
The most important thing to note here is that Tielemans is still only 21 years old – nowhere near his prime – and still has a lot of time to develop.
What can Leicester Fans expect?
Tielemans is a fairly versatile midfielder, during his first year with Anderlecht and subsequently a portion of his time at Monaco the Belgian was deployed as a holding midfielder, a role that he certainly performs well in.
However we have also seen him play further forward, as he possesses a keen eye for a pass as well as an absolute rocket of a right foot. It is this weapon that draws defenders out to him, immediately attempting to close off any chance of a shot, and therefore creating space in behind for Tielemans to tee up one of his teammates. It seems like this style could fit in incredibly well with the play of Leicester’s attacking players.
However it is also possible that Puel will choose to play Tielemans in that defensive midfield role, to fill in the gaps where needed, and become the player that Leicester thought they were getting in Adrien Silva.
The youngster could have a huge impact for the former Champions, or his loan spell could somewhat resemble the time Renato Sanches spent in the Premier League with Swansea last season… only time will tell in this case.
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