Leicester City might not be winning the Premier League this season, but a lot of their players are winning the hearts of many. While the likes of James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Jamie Vardy are the standouts, it isn’t just about them. The Foxes full-backs have been key to the way they play, with Ricardo Pereira attracting a lot of attention.
The 26-year-old has been one of the best right-backs in the Premier League, having picked up two goals and one assist. In the League Cup, the Portuguese has one assist in two outings and the club is now in the semi-finals of the competition. They face Aston Villa, with a genuine chance to possibly winning silverware later this year.
Considering the form he has been in, links with Barcelona make a lot of sense. Spanish outlet Sport (via Sportwitness) claim that Barca see Pereira as a potential replacement for Nelson Semedo. The player’s agent Jorge Mendes has put the right-back’s name in the fray as a potential replacement for Semedo. The report also suggests that Pereira would available for €40 million.
It is important to note that Semedo himself has been linked with a Nou Camp exit, with the club keen on taking advantage of him slipping down the pecking order. That report too comes from Sport. The continuity and connection between the reports make it rather plausible.
Having said that, Pereira could well be an upgrade on Semedo. This season, the Leicester man has been completing 2.3 dribbles per game and also has a tally of 0.8 key passes per game. The dribbling stats have been important since last season when, when he could complete only 1.9 dribbles per game. In fact, this season has been his best when it comes to dribbling. In the past, he has shown that he is a very good passer too.
Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers has previously lauded Pereira for how he has grown in stature gradually. He told reporters back in May:
“He’s been outstanding. It’s never easy coming in from Europe. Physically, I know he had challenges early on, but he’s got better and better.”
Leicester have been playing an attractive brand of football in a 4-3-3 shape, with Ben Chilwell and Pereira often playing high up the pitch. This attacking system allows him to get on the ball and use his ability on the ball to very good effect.
That is very similar to what is needed of Semedo. The 26-year-old has completed 0.5 key passes this season, completing 1.5 dribbles per game. But he has won only 1.7 tackles per game this season, while Pereira’s numbers are at another level. He has won 4.2 tackles per game, also making 1.2 interceptions per game.
It shows that Pereira is more no-nonsense than Semedo. He likes to drive forward and is a battler who can track back and win the ball back too. The Barcelona system is also a 4-3-3 and wants the full-backs to bomb forward constantly. Pereira is someone who can do that and trackback in equal measure. He brings that bonus element to the plate too.
Both players are of the same age and are Portuguese internationals. Jorge Mendes’ influence in the deal could be high and that will Barca, who will only help Mendes’ accounts. And the move will make sense on many levels.