Gary Lineker described him as a perfect replacement for Harry Maguire. Ilkay Gundogan once said he was second behind Virgil van Dijk in the Premier League. Jamie Carragher “loves” to watch it. Caglar Soyuncu made a strong impression at Leicester.
The 24-year-old certainly stands out – and not just for the chiseled jawbone and flowing locks some have compared to Lord Farquaad from the Shrek movies. No, what strikes most about Soyuncu is his style of play; how he mixes the physical and the technical. He’ll gladly crush a loose ball in the stands, but he also has a soft spot for a Cruyff turn in his own box.
His emergence at Leicester was one of the many successes under Brendan Rodgers. Last season he made sure they didn’t miss Maguire after he left for Manchester United. Now he’s helping them fight for a top four spot and FA Cup glory.
The Turkey international, a £ 19million signing from Freiburg in 2018, still prefers to conduct interviews with the help of an interpreter, but it is clear from speaking to him that he is settled in England and is enjoying life. with her “friends” in the Leicester walk-in closet. bedroom.
“My friends and I are all feeling so good right now,” he said. Sky Sports. “We’re having fun on and off the pitch and we’re going to do our best to end the season on a high.”
And what a high that could be.
Leicester are well placed for a Champions League final in the Premier League – two points closer to Manchester United, second than they are West Ham, fifth – and next month’s FA Cup final against Chelsea gives them also a chance to win silverware.
“It’s been a long time since the club made a cup final so it’s great for us,” Soyuncu said. “Obviously, we have to finish the job and earn it – that would make it even more meaningful.
“But we’re really proud to be here and we’ll do our best to win each of our last Premier League games as well.”
These last Premier League games pitted Leicester against Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, among others, but they will approach them with confidence and why not?
After all, few clubs are exposing the madness of the European Super League project quite like Leicester – winner of the Premier League title just five years ago and now mobile again under Rodgers.
Soyuncu thinks they are exactly where they belong.
“I don’t see us as underdogs,” he says. “We also had a great season last season. Before the Covid hiatus, we were doing so well, so it’s no surprise to us where we are now.
“Whether it’s a surprise to the others I don’t know, but we did really well last year and we expected it to be again this season.”
What they didn’t expect, however, was that they would have to make do without Soyuncu for such a big part. The center-back was virtually ubiquitous alongside Jonny Evans last season, but this time around he had to endure spells on the sidelines.
A persistent injury from an abductor caused him to miss several months of action between October and January. Most recently, he had to attend back-to-back matches against Manchester City and West Ham after contracting Covid while on international duty.
It may not be a coincidence that Leicester lost both of these games. Wesley Fofana has shown huge potential in his absence, but the team’s record when Soyuncu plays – they’ve lost just four of the 21 games he’s started this season – is significantly better.
Leicester have certainly benefited from his presence lately, winning the last six games he has played in, including their FA Cup fixtures against Manchester United and Southampton, with Rodgers deploying Soyuncu to the left of a fullback three.
Soyuncu insists he has no preference between systems – “whether the manager plays with two center-backs or three, we adapt,” he shrugs – and credits his impressive performances to the teammates and coaches around. him.
“Since I started at the club I have always been supported by everyone here – not just the players but also the blunderer. He gives me playing time and I am grateful for that.
“The team spirit here is great. The staff and the players, we are a tight family group. When you feel supported and they believe in you, you give your best and you play. better, that’s what I’ve been. trying to do. “
Soyuncu is now a key figure for Leicester, but he had to be patient after arriving from Freiburg in 2018, making just seven appearances in his first six months at the club as former manager Claude Puel opted to put him to bed slowly.
It would have been easy for disillusionment to take hold, but Soyuncu, a popular club figure known for his positive attitude and playful sense of humor, never doubted himself.
“Every player wants to play every game and I’m no different. But when I first arrived I knew it was going to be a while before I barged into the squad. my best in training and on the pitch and knew my time was coming.
“I’m not a sulky person. I’m not mad at situations like this. I knew my time was coming and it’s not in my character to give up, so I didn’t.
“I had reasons not to do it too. First of all, it’s just not something that is in my character, and second, I wanted to do well for my country and continue to represent them.
“That’s why I waited for my turn and finally it came.”
Soyuncu ultimately had to wait until Maguire left for a chance, but the outlook improved from the moment Rodgers arrived at King Power Stadium in February.
I’m not the sulking type. I knew my time was coming and it’s not in my character to give up so I didn’t
In fact, Rodgers’ confidence in him was such that he chose not to reinvest the £ 80million received for Maguire in another center-back.
Soyuncu rose to the challenge of stepping in and he’s not the only Leicester player to have sung his manager’s praises since then.
“Everyone says positive things about him because he treats everyone the same,” Soyuncu says. “It’s very important and that maybe makes him different from some other managers.
“He knows his players well, that’s the second thing, and he knows how to get the most out of them for that reason.
“As a human being he is a great man on and off the pitch. I believe that with him in charge there is a great opportunity for all young Leicester players to enter the squad. . “
Soyuncu knows this from experience and there will surely be more applause if he can help Leicester continue their recent momentum until the end of the season. “I always try to do my best,” he says with a smile. “I hope we end up where we want to be.”
Watch Southampton vs Leicester live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7:30 pm Friday; kick off 8 p.m.