The ‘Underrated’ All-Rounder Who’s Key to Making the Foxes Bite

Ricardo Pereira has gone from strength to strength at Leicester
Ricardo Pereira has gone from strength to strength at Leicester | Visionhaus/Getty Images

The underrated/overrated paradox is one of the most most puzzling and tiresome concepts in football.

Fuelled by a burning desire for justice in the frequently unfair world of football Twitter, every wannabe pundit subjects footballers across the world to bipolar existence. Too much hype and you’re overrated – plain and simple. Do not attract enough hype and you’re overrated – plain and simpler.

The paradox also throws up a few intriguing thought experiments. For instance, if 90min surveyed one million football fans and every single one of them says a certain player is underrated – surely they cease to be so?

Ricardo Pereira - Portuguese Soccer Player - Born 1993
Ricardo Pereira is a candidate for one of the world’s most underrated players | Visionhaus/Getty Images

At this point, you may be wondering why on earth we are still going on about this. The answer is that Ricardo Pereira – the subject of this article – fits this thought experiment quite nicely. Social media is awash with football supporters bemoaning that the 26-year-old is massively ‘underrated’. So many in fact that surely it’s time for the defender to start being considered highly rated at least?

While everyone else has been missing the point, Leicester fans have long known just how good Pereira really is. It is not an overstatement to say that the injury that kept him out of the closing stages of the 2019/2020 campaign was the main factor in the Foxes missing out on Champions League spot.

The Portugal international is vital to Brendan Rodgers’ system, combining a mean streak defensively with being Leicester’s most dangerous wide player going forward. Perhaps even their most dangerous creative player full stop.

Pereira was brought in from FC Porto at the beginning of the 2018/2019 season by the much maligned Claude Puel and his arrival was transformative. Although Danny Simpson’s contribution to the Foxes impossible title success will never be forgotten in LE2, the former Manchester United man offered nothing going forward.

At times, it seemed like he was allergic to the opposition half. This wasn’t much of a problem when he was twinned with the world class Riyad Mahrez down the right-hand side, but with the Algerian sold in 2018 Simpson’s meat and two veg defensive performances became obsolete overnight.

Pereira’s arrival added a much need injection of vigour out wide. During his debut Premier League campaign, he bounced back from an inauspicious start to register seven assists and two goals – both of which were absolute stunners. Last season he racked up similar numbers, hitting five goal involvements before his season was cut short after 28 games.

His ability to drive the team forward has also been evident during his two season in England. During both campaigns he has averaged just shy of 200 progressive yards per 90 minutes. Without Pereira in the side Leicester looked bereft of attacking thrust during their pitiful end of the season.

This impressive offensive skill set doesn’t tell the whole story of Pereira as a player though. Far from simply being an auxiliary winger, giving license to romp up and down the right-hand side, he has also slyly developed one of the best one-on-one defenders in the world since arriving in England.

Ricardo Pereira has been capped by Portugal | ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

If you factor out players who only played a handful of games, no one averaged more tackles per 90 minutes than Pereira last season (4.36). On average, two of these dispossessions were made when facing forwards in one-on-one situations as well.

Pereira’s reads the game fantastically and is also tenacious, making him one of the meanest defenders around. Twinning this with such an effective attacking arsenal makes him a truly brilliant modern full-back.

Although all of the talk this summer has been about Leicester possibly losing his opposite number in Ben Chilwell, Pereira’s departure would be a far more crushing blow for the Foxes. Why a top European side hasn’t already tested the Foxes resolve is a mystery.

Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say.

I mean come on. You have to admit that he’s massively underrated.



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