- Matt Elliott reflects on Youri Tielemans’ impressive 2020/21 campaign for Leicester City
- The creative Belgium midfielder scored the winner in May's Emirates FA Cup Final
- He was named as the Club's Player of the Season by both the fans and his team-mates
Leicester's League Cup hero in 2000, Elliott knows all about scoring the winner for the Foxes in a final.
Though City’s former captain was already convinced of the Belgian midfielder’s qualities long before his cup final exploits, he was delighted to see Tielemans follow in his footsteps and write his name into Club folklore, as Leicester finally added the FA Cup to the trophy cabinet after 137 years and four previous final defeats.
“I’ve been impressed him as an individual since he walked through the door at the Football Club,” Elliott, a regular panellist and co-commentator on LCFC TV and LCFC Radio admitted. “But I think in particular this season, he’s taken his game to a different level.
“He’s been Mr. Consistent, but not just consistent at a mediocre level of performance, his standards have been very high and he’s the only outfield player that has been available throughout the course of the campaign.
Tielemans' trademark celebration came out after his cup final stunner at Wembley.
“Leicester have suffered severely with injuries and a lot of key players have had long periods of time out of the frontline, but he’s been there all the time, along with Kasper Schmeichel, Mr. Dependable.
“Pulling the strings as well, developing his game, showing greater authority out there on the field of play. It was without doubt that he had the talent, we knew that from when he first came to the Club.
“But you just thought maybe the pace of the game might be a little bit too much for him over the course of a season in the Premier League. He needed to work on his fitness, which he did very promptly.
“To me, it seems quite clear that he’s upped his fitness levels. His durability and his ability to sustain a level of performance over a long period of time has been exceptional, really.”
He’s growing as a player in his understanding of the role. It’s not just all about ability alone, his awareness on the pitch, his positional sense, playing alongside Wilfred Ndidi has developed that side of his game I think.Matt Elliott on Youri Tielemans
While evaluating the character behind the player, Elliott also believes Tielemans’ tactical awareness and nouse has sharpened, as he continues to take his game to higher heights. The stats would suggest manager Brendan Rodgers agrees.
The former Monaco man played all 38 Premier League fixtures in 2020/21, as well as featuring in all seven UEFA Europa League games and every Emirates FA Cup tie on the road to glory.
It demonstrates just how integral Tielemans has been for City, remaining in the XI even when others were being rotated during a busy and unrelenting fixture schedule.
Elliott explained: “I’ve met Youri on one occasion and he impresses you straight away as a very mature man, very level-headed and he understands the role that he has to play both on and off the pitch.
The Belgium international applauds the Blue Army after the Club's maiden FA Cup triumph.
“He is a key figure in Leicester’s line-up, and they have a number of key players within the team and the squad who have a big impact. Youri is almost like the lynchpin. In the middle of the park it’s vital that you’ve got that good blend within your game.
“He’s growing as a player in his understanding of the role. It’s not just all about ability alone, his awareness on the pitch, his positional sense, playing alongside Wilfred Ndidi, it has developed that side of his game I think.
“But he’s also maintained that ability to pick a pass, open a defence and as we saw at regular intervals throughout the season, he has goalscoring ability, he has that goal threat.
“Some people have mentioned quite regularly that he’s becoming the all-round midfielder and it’s difficult to argue with that and I think Brendan Rodgers recognises that.”
He’s a very likeable character, very popular within the squad itself, as he is with the supporters. To get those two accolades, it pretty does speak for itself, but especially when they had such a good season.Matt Elliott on Youri Tielemans
Tielemans will represent Belgium in UEFA EURO 2020 this summer as the no.1 ranked side in the world bid to win their first major tournament.
He enters the competition having won the Player and Players' Player of the Season awards at the Club’s annual End of Season Awards ceremony. The recently-turned 24-year-old was recognised as the standout player by the supporters and his fellow team-mates.
“Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne at international level is always going to boost your confidence,” Leicester legend Elliott enthused. “He’s an experienced player anyway at a very tender age. Going to Monaco, he took the plunge with that experience of going abroad.
“And then again, coming to England, it was a big move for him, but he just fitted in seamlessly. Playing against the top clubs in this country and then seeing how well he does, it probably wasn’t a surprise to him, but maybe it was a realisation that he can compete at this level.
The City No.8 received recognition from his team-mates and the Club's fans by winning two awards.
“Internationally, he’s developed and become a key figure, not just for Leicester City, but for Belgium as well. Naturally, your confidence grows, and you have that assurance in your play. I think we’ve seen that.
“What more proof do you need than to be receiving awards from both the supporters and players? It just endorses what an impact he’s had this season. He’s a very likeable character, very popular within the squad itself, as he is with the supporters.
“To get those two accolades, it pretty much does speak for itself, but especially when they had such a good season.
“Had there been less injuries, Youri might have had more competition because there were a number of players who were, certainly at the halfway stage of the season, vying for that Player of the Season title - Harvey Barnes, James Justin among a number of others.
“That just reflects on what a season Leicester City have had, that they’ve got that many players who were possible candidates. The prize went to the right man quite clearly at the end of the campaign, but it’s a great indication of what a contribution he made.”
He’s been the mainstay of the team and it culminated in that magnificent goal. It couldn’t have arrived from a more fitting individual after the season that he’s had. He’ll go down in history off the back of it and rightly so.Youri Tielemans
Six goals and four assists in the Premier League, as well as three goals and two assists in the FA Cup, are impressive numbers for a central midfielder. There is, of course, one of those goals that is guaranteed to be remembered most fondly by all connected to the Club for a very long time.
Elliott added: “The goals are almost a bonus from a midfielder, but they are very welcome and part of a midfielder’s makeup. I thought the goal against Manchester United in the quarter-finals was when people externally outside of the Club really sat up and thought: ‘We’ve got some player here’.
“People within Leicester knew what a player he was already, there are many examples, the ball against Brighton for [Kelechi] Iheanacho’s goal, the goal against Newcastle earlier in the season was a wonderful strike and then the dream of all strikes against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.
“He’s been the mainstay of the team and it culminated in that magnificent goal. It couldn’t have arrived from a more fitting individual after the season that he’s had. He’ll go down in history off the back of it and rightly so.”
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