- Journalist Ian Holyman discusses Boubakary Soumaré’s move to Leicester City
- The young midfielder signed from Ligue 1 champions Lille earlier this month
- Holyman talks in detail about Soumaré’s qualities and experiences to date
On Friday, the France Under-21s midfielder joined from Ligue 1 champions Lille for an undisclosed fee, subject to Premier League and international clearance, having spent all of his professional playing career in his native France.
Following that move, Holyman spoke of Soumaré’s developing characteristics, as the young midfielder prepares for his maiden campaign in England.
“I think they (Leicester City fans) should be pretty excited,” he said. “He’s not really a signing that’s come out of left field like someone like Riyad Mahrez for example who even I had struggled to hear of before he signed for Leicester and of course he’s gone on to do fabulous things with both Leicester and Man City, but Boubakary Soumaré has been on the radar of quite a number of big European clubs.
“There’s been a lot of talk about him moving well before now. He’s a powerful midfielder, he was at PSG as a youth, actually took a bit of a leap of faith in his own abilities and decided not to sign his first professional contract with them when he turned 18 and moved to Lille which was a bold move at the time but it does tell you something about his character and he was quite right to have faith in his own abilities.
“I think he played a pretty significant role with Lille’s first team over the last three years, perhaps not quite so much in their title winning season, he was a bit in and out of the side but when he first came into the team he looked very, very good indeed.
“As I said, he’s a powerful guy, 6ft 2ins, really athletic, but he’s also got ability on the ball. He’s not just about being a midfield destroyer.”
Although Soumaré has been utilised as a defensive midfielder during the early stages of his career, Holyman says he has the quality to improve on his forward contributions.
Boubakary Soumaré has been capped 14 times for France Under-21s.
“He’s got the athletic qualities,” he said. “He could probably play in that defensive midfield role but he has been used alongside a more sitting midfielder if you like for Lille and he’s been expected to get up and down.
“One thing perhaps he could improve is his goal output, it’s not been the best at Lille, he’s only got a single league goal in about 80 league appearances but he’s certainly got the quality to be able to improve on that and he’s 22 years-old so I think there’s a lot more to come from him.”
Soumaré moved from a fiercely competitive environment at Paris Saint-Germain to gain more playing time at Lille, and that paid dividends after lifting his maiden piece of silverware at the age of just 22.
And his experiences at Les Dogues, in addition to those earlier in his career, will stand him in good stead as his debut season in the Premier League fast approaches, Holyman believes.
“Obviously at PSG the way through to the first team when you’re 18 years-old doesn’t look all that clear,” he added. “There’s been a number of players who’ve left, Kingsley Coman among them, a number of players at Lille too, Mike Maignan, the goalkeeper who had such a great season last season to help Lille to the title.
“He’s moved to [AC] Milan now so of course that whole Parisian area from where Boubakary Soumaré hails from is a great breeding ground for football talent and Soumaré is right up there.
“There were names like Manchester United, Real Madrid coming in for him and he decided not to leave. He wanted to stay, he wanted that little bit of extra time in his own country, in a league that was familiar to him to grow.
“He made something like 32 appearances I think in the league last season so he played a decent role in Lille’s league winning side even if he perhaps wasn’t always first choice. I do think that it’s a very, very good signing for Leicester, I think he’s got the game, he’s got the ability and he’s got the physical attributes for the Premier League.”
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