Leicester City completed the first major transfer deal of the summer earlier this week with their £22m acquisition of FC Porto defender Ricardo Pereira.
Pereira is reunited with City boss Claude Puel, who brought the 24-year-old full-back to OGC Nice on a two-year loan deal in 2015.
The Portugal international has signed a five-year contract with the Foxes and looks set to usurp Danny Simpson as Leicester’s first-choice right-back.
Pereira’s move is subject to international clearance and is expected to be officially ratified on Saturday 9 June.
After passing a medical and completing terms, Pereira spoke to LCFC TV
“I feel very happy to be here and I can’t wait to do my best to help the team. The atmosphere, the fans and the football of the Premier League makes it the best in the world. I am here to support the team and to help the club to achieve its goals.”
Born in Lisbon, Pereira played youth football with CF Benfica, Sporting CP and Naval, before signing for Vitoria de Guimaraes.
It was with the Primeira Liga club that Pereira made his first-team debut in April 2012, appearing as a 78th-minute substitute in Vitoria’s 3-1 league win over Pacos de Ferreira.
After 27 league appearances for Vitoria in the 2012/13 season – a campaign in which he scored six goals in eight domestic cup fixtures, including the winner in the Taca de Portugal final – Pereira signed for Porto in July 2013.
Pereira failed to secure a regular starting role under head coach Paulo Fonseca or his successor Julen Lopetegui, featuring as much for Porto B as he did for the first team in his initial two seasons with the Portuguese giants.
A two-year loan spell at Nice followed, with Pereira quickly establishing himself as a regular in Puel’s team and helping the French side to a fourth-place finish in 2015/16. Nice bettered that the next season, finishing third in Ligue I and securing a spot in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round. Pereira was once again a first-team mainstay under new boss Lucien Favre, adding a further four assists to the four he supplied in his debut season at Nice.
Recalled by his parent club, Pereira made 26 starts and one substitute appearance for Porto in 2017/18, scoring twice and providing four assists. Pereira also featured in seven of his club’s Champions League fixtures, including the 5-0 home drubbing by Liverpool.
He had to be patient in waiting for his chances with the Portugal national side. Having made his debut against Russia in November 2015, Pereira has only featured on a further two occasions. However, he will be part of his country’s 23-man World Cup squad this summer.
Leicester’s defence has been something of a predicament since their league title success.
Only four sides conceded more goals (60) than the Foxes this season, the second successive league campaign in which they have shipped 60 or more goals. By contrast, City only conceded 36 goals in their Premier League-winning year of 2015/16. Their nine clean sheets this term was also better than just three other teams.
Pereira comes from fresh from a season in which Porto conceded a league-low of 18 goals in 34 games.
Leicester’s 408 tackles lost was the fourth-worst tally among Premier League clubs, so Pereira’s rate of 3.7 successful challenges per game (the second-best average of any Primeira Liga player) could go some way to addressing that obvious weakness. Pereira’s total of 99 successful challenges was more than any FPL defender managed in 2017/18, with Harry Maguire’s tally of 63 the best among the current Leicester squad.
Notably, Simpson made only 38 successful tackles, despite having played more minutes (2313 to Pereira’s 2271) than his new team-mate.
Pereira’s penchant for a tackle doesn’t translate into ill-discipline, though: he picked up only three yellow cards this season, less than Simpson, Wes Morgan (both four) and Maguire (seven).
While Simpson’s defensive solidity has made him a regular fixture in the City backline, no goals and four assists in as many years with Leicester tells its own story.
Pereira, meanwhile, supplied four assists for the third season in a row this campaign and made 35 key passes: only Ben Davies, Kieran Trippier, Jose Holebas and Ryan Bertrand created more chances among Premier League defenders in 2017/18. Christian Fuchs was City’s creator-in-chief from defence, laying on a comparatively meagre 19 chances in 25 appearances.
Pereira’s 48 successful dribbles ranked top for defenders in the Primeira Liga in 2017/18 and was a figure bettered by just two other defenders in the Premier League this season: Maguire and Arthur Masuaku.
Attacking verve comes naturally to Pereira, having spent a chunk of his early career at Vitoria playing as a wide-right midfielder and featuring there for Porto last season. His ability to play in an advanced role should interest Fantasy managers while also giving Puel more tactical options.
Pereira’s versatility extends to the full-back positions too: during his debut season with Nice, Puel utilised Pereira chiefly at left-back. Leicester conceded 420 chances from the right flank this season – only Burnley (421) allowed more – and Pereira has the adaptability to fill in for Fuchs or Ben Chilwell should he be asked to do so.
Puel’s relationship with Pereira was a crucial element in his move to Leicester: the player himself has stated that his new manager was a “very important” factor in the decision to sign for City and that the former Nice boss had inspired confidence in him during his loan spell in France.
The future of Puel as Leicester manager is, of course, far from certain, though it seems unlikely that Pereira would have put pen to paper without assurances about Puel’s job security. His fulsome praise of his mentor would seem to strengthen the case for Puel to start the 2018/19 season as City boss.
Whether or not the Frenchman remains in charge at the King Power Stadium shouldn’t diminish Pereira’s appeal to Fantasy managers. Indeed, Puel’s fondness for a somewhat defensive 4-5-1 or even the classic Leicester 4-4-1-1 would seem to hinder Pereira’s attacking instincts. A more offensive 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 would give the new signing the stage to shine in attack, and Puel’s short-lived experiments with a wing-back system this season – most notably in their defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad – suggests that this is unlikely to happen under his stewardship.
Nevertheless, Pereira has played the bulk of his career in a back four and his deployment as an orthodox right-back has not blunted his attacking returns so far. The prospect of Pereira dovetailing with Riyad Mahrez on the right flank would be an appealing thought for Leicester fans and Fantasy managers alike, though the Algerian’s future with the Foxes looks as unclear as ever.
Pereira’s attacking threat and defensive contributions make him a likely beneficiary of points from all avenues, including via the Bonus Points System (BPS). That ensures that he is already an asset to monitor in both the World Cup and over the pre-season.