Leny Yoro: Why Man Utd and Liverpool want French wonderkid 'built in a lab'

Sam McGuire
Sam McGuire
  • Updated: 8 Jan 2024 15:17 GMT
  • 4 min read
Leny Yoro, Man Utd, Liverpool
© ProShots

Every few years, Lille seem to have one of the most sought-after players in Europe on their hands.

The French club are masters at leveraging this to ensure they receive big money. Over the past five years, they have sold the likes of Nicolas Pepe, Victor Osimhen, Rafael Leao, Sven Botman, Amadou Onana and Carlos Baleba for a combined €304 million.

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If reports are to be believed, the 2020/21 Ligue 1 champions could be set for a significant payday in the summer having unearthed and developed another gem in Leny Yoro.

Yoro made his first-team debut in May 2022, while still just 16 years old, becoming the club’s second youngest-ever debutant and displacing Eden Hazard in the process. The 18-year-old had a bit-part role last term but is now a key fixture in Paolo Fonesca’s starting XI.

Yoro a wanted man boy

He’s racked up 1,318 minutes in Ligue 1 this term and his form has alerted the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs. French outlets claim the 6ft2 centre-back is valued at €80 million by Lille, though his contract situation will likely impact what he eventually goes for.

Yoro’s current deal ends in 2025. If the French side price him out of a move this summer, there’s a chance he leaves on a free after the 2024/25 campaign comes to an end and that will no doubt be playing on their mind over the next two transfer windows.

There is a real dearth of young, quality centre-backs, so clubs will pay a premium for Yoro, but it has to be within reason. His Estimated Transfer Value right now is €20.7m, but there’s some middle ground between that figure and the rumoured €80m one being floated in France.

Manchester United are believed to be interested in the teenager as they look to rebuild their defensive unit. Le10Sport revealed the Red Devils had held talks with Les Dogues even though, as reported by The Athletic, Erik Ten Hag is likely going to have a restricted budget in January.

Liverpool are in the mix too. Joel Matip is out for the foreseeable and his contract is due to expire in the summer. Ibrahima Konate is injury prone and Joe Gomez is covering at full-back. The Reds are believed to want a young defender as a project and Yoro would tick a number of boxes.

Real Madrid are said to be interested in the young centre-back while Paris Saint-German are, obviously, keeping tabs on the situation. After all, they like to hoover up any and all Ligue 1 talent.

Leny Yoro
© ProShots - Leny Yoro

Why is Yoro so highly rated?

So, we know the what, now we need to know the why: Why are so many of Europe’s elite interested in a teenager with just 30 Ligue 1 appearances to his name? Well, simply put, he profiles like a modern-day centre-back built in a lab.

Yoro is used to seeing a lot of the ball, averaging 68 passes per 90. He’s progressive in possession but also extremely safe, finding a teammate 91% of the time. He completes almost 95% of his medium-length passes and 66% of his long passes. His range of passing really is quite impressive, especially for someone of his age.

The 18-year-old is fairly dominant in duels. For example, this season he’s won, on average, 64% of his tackles. In one-on-one duels, he’s coming out on top more often than not and that is what you want. In the modern game, centre-backs are often left with large spaces to cover so you need someone who can dominate when isolated.

Aerially, he’s a bit of a monster too. He’s involved in 2.4 aerial duels per 90 and wins close to 70%. For context, Virgil Van Dijk is the most dominant centre-back in the league and he’s involved in 5.8 aerial duels per 90 with a success rate of 82%. Prior to this campaign, he was winning 72%. So Yoro, if he was able to replicate this form in the Premier League, would be up there with the best in the air.

Yoro could be one of the best in the world in a few years if he’s developed properly. The next move will be key for his development though.

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