Transfers

Leicester Hope Third Time’s A Charm With Portuguese Star

 • by Thomas McIlroy
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Claude Puel has quickly made his mark at the King Power Stadium, but with January fast approaching he’ll undoubtedly want to strengthen his side.

And the first name through the door could be André Almeida, who’s reportedly a Leicester City transfer target ahead of the January window

The Leicester Mercury claims the Foxes are lining up a move for him, suggesting the 27-year-old could be targeted as Puel looks to bring in back-up for current right-back Danny Simpson.

Who is Almeida?

From Lisbon, Almeida spent his youth career with Loures, Sporting Club and Alverca before joining Belenenses, where he made the transition to senior pro.

He made his top-flight debut in January 2009, coming off the bench in a 1-0 loss to Rio Ave, going on to make three more appearances for O Belém that season.

It was 2009/10 when he had his real breakthrough, ending the season with 24 games and one goal in all competitions, but it wasn’t enough to stop Belenenses from being relegated to the second tier of Portuguese football.

He stayed with the Lisbon club for a season as they tried to return to the top flight. But when they failed, he made the switch across the city to Benfica in 2011.

He was immediately loaned to fellow Primeira Liga side Leiria, where he made 13 appearances before being recalled by his parent club in the winter.

He started 2012/13 with Benfica B in the second division. But after Javi García and Axel Witsel left the club towards the end of the transfer window, he became part of the first-team squad, either at right-back or in central midfield, making his Champions League debut in a 0-0 draw at Celtic in September 2012.

Since then, he’s been a part of the first-team squad but has failed to properly nail down a starting position or any sort of regular spot.

The most appearances he’s made in a single season came in 2015/16 season, when he played in 37 games, 26 of which were in the league.

Last term he made just ten league appearances, but he has been regular fixture this season so far, playing in every one of Benfica’s 15 Primeira League matches, scoring his first two league goals for the club.

Almeida is also a Portuguese international, making his debut in 2013 and winning eight caps in total for the national side.

What are Almeida’s main strengths?

As someone who played in midfield before he became a right-back, the Portuguese possesses great passing ability.

In the stills above, against Vitória Guimarães, you can see how confident he is in his ability to pick out his man.

Almeida (circled in yellow) gets free down the line before playing a first-time ball across the box which is fired home without the striker having to take a touch.

And that touch can be particularly special at times.

Once again pushing forward – he’s not afraid of bombing down the right flank – he receives the ball on the wing (circled in yellow).

You would expect many to try and take a touch and swivel, but Almeida has the ability and vision to pick out Pizzi to get a shot on goal.

And in the image again, taken from the same match, against Estoril, his willingness to bomb forward is clear.

He picks the ball up in the right-back position, before cutting inside – it’s obvious he’s comfortable in the middle of the pitch – and dribbling past several opposition players and getting himself in the position to try and pick out a dangerous pass in the Estoril half.

What are Almeida’s main weaknesses?

As an attacking full-back, he needs a team behind him that’s able to cover him or he leaves his fellow defenders open. As long as Leicester have the tactical organisation and discipline to cover him, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Despite all his rampaging forward, he averages less than one successful dribble (0.92) per 90 minutes – a disappointingly low return. That is up on last season’s 0.6 though.

If you’re looking for a predominantly defensive right-back, Almeida isn’t your man, but if anyone was scouting him, that would be obvious.

Key stats on Almeida

Andre Almeida player card

How much is Almeida worth?

Almeida has a release clause of €30million in his previous contract, but signed a new deal in August and no buyout clause has been disclosed.

That would have been a lot of money for a player who wasn’t playing before this season, but maybe now it would take a figure in that region to prise him out of Portugal.

Yet, if he is only being targeted as a backup for Simpson, as the Leicester Mercury suggests, that seems a lot of money.

The Foxes have twice signed players from Portugal in recent seasons and with little success. First, the club-record acquisition of Islam Slimani from Sporting Lisbon proved a disaster before Adrien Silva’s move was completed 14 seconds too late in the summer, leaving the midfielder in limbo until January. The Foxes will hope Almeida makes it third time lucky.

Why should Leicester sign Almeida

Looking at the current Foxes squad, there is no depth at right-back at all, and as Puel showed in his time at Southampton, he thrives with attacking full-backs.

That description fits Almeida perfectly, and his arrival would put pressure on Simpson’s first-team spot.

Should he not break into the first team regularly – and there’s nothing to suggest that would be the case – putting pressure on the 30-year-old so he ups his game is no bad thing.

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