Leny Yoro is a French centre-back currently starring for Ligue 1 side Lille. Despite his young age, his impressive performances at the heart of defence have alerted top Premier League clubs to stand up and take notice.
TEAMtalk transfer insider Dean Jones reported on Monday that Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham have all registered an interest in the 18-year-old, as each of those clubs is looking towards the future of their defence with Yoro being the subject of a potential move.
Yoro has become one of the first names on the teamsheet for Lille this season as Les Dogues currently sit fourth in the table with the joint second-best defence in the league, tied with PSG.
A more peripheral figure the prior campaign, following the departure of 39-year-old veteran Jose Fonte at the end of last season, a gap in the Lille defence presented itself next to the Brazilian Alexsandro Ribeiro and Yoro has taken the opportunity with both hands.
Yoro’s career so far
Born and raised in his native France, Yoro is of Ivorian descent through his father. He has chosen to represent the country of his birth at four different youth levels but still has the chance to play for Ivory Coast at senior level.
He joined Lille’s youth ranks in 2017 at the age of 12 and has since progressed to the first team. In 2022 he debuted for the Lille reserve side and signed his first professional contract shortly after at the age of 16.
Yoro made his first-team debut on 14 May 2022, while still just 16 years old, and became the club’s second youngest-ever debutant, taking the place of a certain Eden Hazard.
In the following campaign, he would be in and out of the squad, making 13 appearances in total but impressing on each occasion and the departure of Fonte at the end of the 2022/23 season opened a spot at the back, in which Yoro has excelled in taking up the mantle.
So far this season Yoro has made 13 appearances in the league, only missing the opening fixture which was a 1-1 draw away at Nice and following Alexsandro’s dismissal at home to Nantes, Yoro was thrust into the starting eleven away at Lorient where Les Dogues would fall to a 4-1 defeat.
From thereon, Yoro has firmly established himself as the starting centre-back alongside Alexsandro and has already matched the number of appearances he made last season and looks set to remain in the Lille backline going forward.
What is Yoro like as a player?
Standing at 1.90m (6ft 3), Yoro, despite his age, is already one of the tallest players on whatever pitch he steps on and his size enables him to be a threat in both boxes, already scoring twice in the league this campaign, both with his head.
Under Paulo Fonseca, Lille have averaged over 60% possession this season and the 18-year-old is a key component in why they can dominate the ball.
Les Dogues can play with a high line because of Yoro’s athletic and technical ability. He is able to distribute the ball out of the defence in multiple ways, draw defenders in and bypass the press and sweep any balls away that gets played in behind because of his pace.
Yoro is comfortable on the ball and when pressed he uses his frame to shield the ball from the opposition, where his technical ability shines as he can keep close control of the ball before passing to a teammate or putting the ball out of play and away from danger.
His extensive passing range allows him to switch the ball to wide areas with accuracy from deep and enables Lille to switch from a shorter passing style to a more direct way of progressing the ball whenever it is suited.
Sometimes Yoro is prone to clearing the ball when he has more time to control it and regain possession for his side, which is an area he can improve on, but age is firmly on his side.
The Frenchman is also prone to man marking a certain player tightly which if exploited can leave gaps in the defence should the opposition player Yoro is marking get the better of him. Again, Yoro has ample time to improve upon this.
Where will Yoro go?
Yoro is the subject of interest from numerous Premier League clubs and with his contract running until the summer of 2025, a move to England could be close on the horizon. According to Transfermarkt, his market value is €18.00m (£15.4m) but it would probably take an offer closer to £30million to tempt Lille into a sale.
Lille have been a factory for talent throughout the past couple of decades with players such as Victor Osimhen, Sven Botman, Rafael Leao and Gabriel Magalhaes all departing for significant fees after developing in the north of France.
Man Utd are one of the clubs taking a look at the teenager, with the Red Devils’ defensive woes increasingly stunting any progress Erik ten Hag’s side attempt to make. A move to the more youthful and dependable Yoro would solidify their defence for years to come.
Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip are getting further into their thirties and a refresh in the Liverpool backline will be needed sooner rather than later. A swoop for Yoro could see a long term partnership between him and compatriot Ibrahima Konate form.
Chelsea are reportedly looking to continue their mass spending spree with the acquisition of Yoro and with Thiago Silva already 39 years old, a more youthful outfit may make Chelsea look healthier defensively in the long-term.
Spurs have had to contest with the injuries to Mickey van de Ven, Eric Dier and Ashley Phillips and the suspensions of Cristian Romero this campaign, meaning Emerson Royal and Ben Davies have both had to fill in at centre-back. Signing Yoro would not only add much needed depth, but youth and quality for Ange Postecoglou’s side.
West Ham’s centre back duo of Kurt Zouma and Nayef Aguerd are both slowly approaching thirty, and with Konstantinos Mavropanos unable to assert himself in the Hammers backline this season, a bid for Yoro could be on the cards for the Europa Conference League Champions.