At the end of November, and throughout December, Leicester City underwent some major changes with 8 of the starting XI being replaced.
With that in mind, many fans expected a quiet off season with little transfer activity. Early on that looked likely, but a busy couple of days has excited fans once again.
The first news of an arrival was nothing spectacular, but came in the form of Denis Bouanga, 27, who was announced on the 5th of January. The winger officially joined 2 weeks later for a fee of just under £4 million, from Earle’s past team RCD Espanyol. Bouanga isn’t expected to be in contention for a starting spot and will likely only play a role in the cup competitions, or in exceptional circumstances. Fans were happy enough with the signing who helps with the depth whilst costing the club next to nothing.
Leicester then switched their target from squad depth to star man and managed to pull off the signing of Gabriel Barbosa, 25, from Division 2 side Aston Villa. Fans were caught completely unaware by the move, as the club had signed Santi Mina just a month earlier. However, their surprise was quickly followed by excitement with the Brazilian looking likely to be the main man for the years to come. In his 2 seasons at Villa, Gabriel scored 17 goals and assisted 9 more in 42 games, figures Earle will hope he can build on in Division 4. Josip Stanisic, 21, also arrived in the deal, adding another youth option to the defence. He will spend this season on loan at Spartak Moskva, gaining game time in the Youth Cup.
The deal saw promising duo Eberechi Eze, 23, and Trevoh Chalobah, 22, move in exchange. Whilst the loss of 2 developmental projects was unfortunate, the club were delighted to bring in a game changer such as Gabriel, along with a strong future defender.
It looked likely that the rest of the preseason may roll by with no more moves, but the 20th of January saw two more deals agreed. Tyrick Mitchel, 22, signed from Barcelona, becoming the second left back to swap the Camp Nou for the King Power in as many months, following Borna Sosa’s move at the end of last season. Mitchell is expected to back up Federico Dimarco, 24, who has comfortably claimed the starting position since the departure of Alex Moreno, 28. Fans have been very happy with the arrival, as Mitchell becomes just the 4th Englishman in the entire squad. George Bello, 20, Konstantin Tyukavin, 20, and Check Diakite, 19, all moved to Barcelona in exchange.
Igor Matanovic, 18, was also signed, joining from Eintracht Frankfurt for a fee of around £650k. The German was a target of Earle’s whilst at Torino, but the Italians opted to sell to Frankfurt, before Leicester swooped in to pick him up anyway. At 18, there is no expectation on the striker, who is unlikely to even get any game time in the Youth Cup. The club hope that he will be able to develop into a useful option, with an alternative style of play, similar to that of the clubs former striker Sandro Wagner.
Following the arrival of Mitchell, Borna Sosa, 24, was made available. The left back was deemed surplus to requirements and attracted a lot of interest. After long negotiations, a deal was agreed with FK Partizan. The left back will depart Leicester along with centre midfielder Diadie Samassekou, 26, and Nehuen Perez, 21, to the Serbian capital. Joining Leicester will be Matteo Guendouzi, 22, and Jeremie Boga, 25, who add much needed quality in depth to the midfield, wing and attacking positions. Both will arrive at the end of March at a key period of the season and Earle will hope the timing will give a morale boost to the sqaud.
Luis Sinisterra, 22, has departed the club on loan, joining AZ Alkmaar for the season. Having played key roles in the youth competitions whilst eligible, he had to adjust to less game time last season trying to battle for domestic cup minutes. He did well, but the strengthening of the squad means he would face tougher competition, and so it suited both the club and the player for him to seek game time elsewhere.
Sepp van den Berg, 20, also left on a season long loan, joining Youth Cup champions Arsenal. The defender will be in the youth team and push to help retain the trophy for the Gunners. At Leicester City, the Dutchman was behind Valentino Livramento, 19, at right back and a number of players at centre back. The loan will give him the opportunity to play regularly and train with top quality players in Division 1.
Leicester City are still looking to develop at right back and to pick up an extra centre back and have made Santi Mina, 26, Davide Faraoni, 30, Kevin Bonifazi, 25, Cortes Antonin, 21, and more available for potential deals.
The club has a long season ahead of them where the squad will continue to transition and strengthen with the ultimate goal of rising through the leagues. However, Earle has made it clear that he will not damage the clubs long term project for short term rewards, and believes this option is already proving to be extremely rewarding for the club.