Premier League

Puel Turning To Past To Solve Foxes’ Full-Back Future

 • by James Nalton
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Tottenham Hotspur were the first English club to show interest in Porto wide-man Ricardo Pereira. Mauricio Pochettino had him down as a potential replacement for Kyle Walker, who departed for Manchester City in the summer.

Chief scout Steve Hitchen, formerly of Liverpool, had been impressed by the utility player during his time on loan at French club Nice, but Spurs’ £13.2 million bid was rejected in July.

Now Leicester City have thrown their hat into the ring for his signature. Sky Sports report that the 24-year-old looks likely to move to the Premier League this summer, with the Foxes said to be in the driving seat.

Representatives from the 2016 champions were in Portugal over Easter to work on a deal, and they are said to be offering up to €25million (£22million) for the player whose release clause is €37.5million.

A good indication of Pereira’s style is Spurs wanted him to replace Walker. They instead opted for the Ivorian attacking right-back Serge Aurier but the Porto wideman is very much in this mould, if not even more well-versed in attacking situations.

So much so that Leicester could even see him as a possible replacement for Riyad Mahrez, should the Algerian finally get his wish and leave this summer.

Pereira could also be used as a right wing-back if Claude Puel, as he has done on one occasion this season, opts to field a back three.

Didn’t We Have A Nice Time

Puel will be familiar with the player having worked with him during his time in charge of Nice.

The French club finished fourth in the league in 2016, with Puel using the versatile Portugal international primarily at left-back, but occasionally on the right as a winger or full-back.

Pereira was one of the club’s best players that season, displaying good dribbling skill but also reading the game well in defence, averaging three interceptions per game.

Back at Porto, he looked to have settled at right-back as the season progressed, but since coming back from a thigh injury he’s played a handful of games on the right of midfield ahead of Maxi Pereira, and even one as a right-sided forward.

He was unfortunate to be present at right-back during the team’s 5-0 mauling at the hands of Liverpool in the Champions League, where he struggled against the likes of Sadio Mané and Andy Robertson, but he was far from the only player at fault in what was a miserable showing from the entire Porto team.

Generally, he’s maintained the type of play which made him so successful at Nice, and has brought this with him back to his parent club in Portugal. This has alerted scouts from clubs across Europe to his talents.

Where Pereira shines

This season in the Primeira Liga, an admittedly weaker division than the Premier League, Pereira has averaged 3.4 tackles per 90 minutes and is making 1.8 interceptions per game, more than current Leicester right-back Danny Simpson, who averages 1.53 tackles and 1.36 interceptions.

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His attacking play isn’t quite on a par with Mahrez, partly due to the fact that the Leicester man plays further forward on a more regular basis, but Pereira is still approaching 2.0 successful take-ons per 90 compared to Mahrez’s 2.45, and touches the ball in the opposition box almost 3 times per game to Mahrez’s 3.7.

Even when playing in more advanced positions Pereira will work hard to help out in defence when required, and is a useful player when it comes to turning defence into attack with quick counters.

One of his favourite moves in possession involves shifting the ball quickly from his stronger right foot onto his left, knocking it past the opponent and accelerating clear. He has the speed to beat most full-backs one on one and his close control at pace can also be impressive when he’s on his game.

His pace also helps him out in defence, meaning he’s quick to recover and can often catch opposition attackers off guard as he chases them down to them to win the ball.

Surprisingly he averages more open play key passes per 90 than Mahrez, (1.16 compared to 0.93) and he’s far ahead of Simpson in this area, with the Englishman barely registering any open play key passes from right back.

Premier League?

Puel will be attracted to the player’s versatility and having used him successfully at left-back in France, the Foxes boss will have no doubts he will be able to do a job in place of either Simpson on the right, or Christian Fuchs on the left, who are 31 and 32 respectively.

And if they find themselves needing an extra threat in attack, Pereira will comfortably slot into any number of wide positions, offering a hard-working but also effect option going forward.

He seems made for the Premier League, and according to these recent reports, it appears to simply be a case of which team he will join this summer. Puel’s history with the player could mean that Leicester have the edge.

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