Leicester set to make record bid for international star

Leicester City have a lot of work to do within the winter transfer window. The Foxes need sales and purchases to keep up their momentum at the summit of the EFL Championship table. The latest link is to Celtic's Matt O'Riley: this is what you should know.
Celtic FC v Feyenoord: Group E - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
Celtic FC v Feyenoord: Group E - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Leicester City are set to make some moves in the January transfer window as they look to maintain their lead in the Championship table. The Foxes, who are aiming to return to the Premier League after being relegated last season, are exploring various options to upgrade their squad. One of the targets they have identified is Celtic’s Matt O’Riley, a versatile midfielder who has been impressive in Scotland and Europe.

The Foxes seem to be looking at their defence and midfield in this window: we have already noticed a couple of links (Here and Here) which show the ambition the league leaders have. Enzo Maresca has identified midfield as an area for improvement for good reason.

Leicester City's midfield

Harry Winks
Leicester City v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship / David Rogers/GettyImages

It might sound daft to say, but Leicester do not have a particularly strong midfield. Outside of the established starting three - Harry Winks, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, and Wilfred Ndidi - there begins significant downgrades in several departments without changes to the system. For example, Cesare Casedei and Hamza Choudhury cannot replicate the performances of their peers. Meanwhile, Dennis Praet is only just returning from injury.

At the moment, the first team only has one weakness: the Nigerian's role. Winks sets the tempo and helps to retain possession, Dewsbury-Hall dictates the direction of attack and offers the creative outlet, Ndidi is meant to be effectively an attacking-midfielder with a deeper starting position. That is not his natural role, and although the Nigerian legend has been playing alright, we are in the Championship, playing unnaturally would be less useful in the Premier League or later parts of this campaign.

The Foxes need an out-and-out deep playmaker who can also get forward and score some goals. Someone to support 'KDH' going forward, and help push Leicester back to the Premier League. They need Matt O'Riley.

What to know about Matt O'Riley

Matt O'Riley
Celtic FC v Hibernian FC - Cinch Scottish Premiership / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

Should these rumours be true, the King Power club will be exploring options with Celtic to enable a move for the Danish midfielder. However, any attempt to sign O'Riley would be difficult to achieve in the winter window.

1. Transfer value

Firstly, Leicester City could struggle to justify the exorbitant cost of signing a player who only recently signed a contract and is a key player for Celtic. It would be a record fee for a Scottish league signing: £25m currently held by Kiernan Tierney.

2. Bloated squad

Alex Smithies, Danny Ward, Daniel Iversen, and Harry Souttar. Four players who are seldom used, and a few more out on loan yet not fully gone. There are too many players unused, and Enzo Maresca will need to sell before they can buy.

A tough position to be in when looking to refresh in the winter window. The Foxes are unlikely to fork out that fee and manage to raise enough from player sales to justify that. On top of this, Leicester will struggle to offload their unwanted talents bar perhaps Souttar and Iversen. The Welsh goalkeeper and Smithies will be hard to get rid of.

The key reasons why the King Power would want Matt O'Riley is that he scores goals, is extremely creative, and offers a high-press defensive option that challenges for the ball a lot for players in his position. The perfect stylistic fit to go alongside Winks and KDH in midfield.

I do not believe this one would happen in January. Celtic want to keep him, the player is utterly exceptional and should not be anywhere near the Championship, and would represent a huge outlay when we have no guarantees of Premier League football. He may well be exciting, but excitement is not the same as realism.