For a club like Leicester City to have a talent like Belgian international Youri Tielemans, it is a clear coup. The Midlands club might have won a league title, but they are not one of the biggest clubs in England – or across Europe. Therefore, being able to keep their star players revolves around being able to continue progress on and off the field. And while the Foxes can boast truly elite training facilities, the lack of UEFA Champions League football has some players heading for the exit door.
The club faces a unique dilemma with Tielemans. The Belgian signed a deal until 2023, so he is out of contract next summer. His quality is nigh-impossible to replace at Leicester’s level, so they need to get as much money as they can and build the squad over chasing a direct replacement. The problem they face, though, is the financial situation in Europe.
The monied clubs outside of England are unlikely to see Tielemans as a must-buy. Those who could afford the large fee Leicester want do not appear to be looking for a new midfielder. As such, the club faces a frustrating challenge – if they want the money they feel he is worth, he has to be sold to an English club. Sell arguably your best player to a rival, though, and it makes future progress harder.
If Tielemans ends up at Arsenal or Tottenham, as has been discussed, it leaves Leicester weaker. It also means other star players might look for a similar move, further weakening the club. Many of the Foxes stars stick around as the club shows immense ambition relative to their size.
Selling their playmaker to a domestic rival for European spots, though, is waving the white flag. Yet without that money, can Leicester continue to rebuild?
Is keeping Tielemans an option?
Some believe that Leicester might simply choose to keep the Belgian and push for European qualification with him. Then, if it works, he can leave in 2023 and depart on good terms having re-established the club as the dominant team in the Midlands. However, this would mean having to replace a borderline world class midfielder for nothing.
The other option is to sell abroad for a smaller fee, though this makes replacing him much harder. Reports, though, suggest that the player is keen to stay in England and thus the club might have to choose to sell to a team in the same league.
This is a headache that Leicester and Brendan Rodgers could do without. The Foxes are in the middle of a major squad refresh as it is; having to lose one of the key faces of their recent success would be a hammerblow indeed. However, with his contract scenario as it is and the lack of appetite on the players side to renew, decisions must be made.
2022 has been a tough year so far for Leicester; the summer could prove even more challenging, however.