It always looked likely that Harry Maguire would join Manchester United this summer, even though Leicester City stood firm on their valuation. The deal eventually went through with a few days of the transfer window remaining, with the Foxes ultimately pocketing a world-record fee of £80m for a defender.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were subsequently linked with the likes of Lewis Dunk, Nathan Aké and James Tarkowski, but in the end they opted against signing a new centre-back. Perhaps this was their intention all along, with Rodgers quoted as saying that his team would not be looking for an external successor to Maguire. Given what we have seen so far this term, the decision to promote Çağlar Söyüncü to the starting XI was an astute one.
Leicester signed Söyüncü from Freiburg last summer, but he was not very involved in his debut campaign at the club. The Turkey international made only eight appearances in all competitions, and he completed 90 minutes in the Premier League on just three occasions. However, he had not long turned 22 when Leicester brought him to the East Midlands, and it is likely that they earmarked the defender as one for the future more than the here and now.
After winning the title in 2015/16, Leicester struggled for much of the following Premier League season. There were several reasons for that but one of the most significant was their poor recruitment in the summer. Since then, however, the club has done an excellent job in the transfer market, gradually phasing out some of the old guard and renewing the squad with young players with resale value.
Söyüncü, for instance, was signed for £19m – not a snip but a reasonable fee if he goes on to be a regular for the club over several seasons. The Turk has enjoyed a fantastic start to the current campaign, forming a promising partnership Jonny Evans and helping Leicester remain unbeaten after five matches in all competitions.
Söyüncü is not the tallest of centre-backs at 6ft 1in, but he is aggressive without the ball and firm in the tackle. He also excels in possession, capable of picking passes from deep and carrying the ball into midfield to set his team on the attack. Söyüncü has occasionally been guilty of losing concentration this term, but his potential is clear for all to see.
“We don't want him to do that," Rodgers laughed when asked about Söyüncü's propensity to dribble out of tricky situations close to his own goal.
“But we ask him to make the first pass, when you have got to defend it, defend it, but when you have the possibility, make the first pass, and he is doing that very well.
“I had hoped that he could go in and have the impact he has had. I think I have seen enough of him in the Huddersfield game (last season] and in training. If you look at him in our third goal, that's exactly what we want, defenders who defend forward.
I think you sense the supporters are really enjoying watching him play. He does a couple of wee maverick things that makes you wonder sometimes, but he is very young, you can see he is aggressive, attacks the ball well.
“For me, first and foremost, he can defend. [There] are things that show his youth, but he has huge potential and he is very good.”
It is still early days, but the evidence so far suggests that Leicester were right to replace Maguire from within.