There’s no doubting the 2022/2023 season’s been one to forget for Leicester City defender Caglar Soyuncu even though some positives could be extracted towards the end of the term.
Having been frozen out by Brendan Rodgers, who only handed him one start prior to his departure, the Turkish international cut a rejuvenated figure once Dean Smith arrived, for he immediately began to stamp his mark.
Producing the goods and vindicating his manager’s decision to place his faith in him, the aggressive central defender was looking close to a level resembling his best before injury meant he was forced to sit out the dying embers of the crusade.
“I don’t know what’s gone on before I got here,” Smith explained. “All I can do is talk about since I arrived. I’ve seen a player who’s committed to the club, trains really well and his performance has shown that as well. I sat down with him ahead of the Manchester City game and asked where he was at, to see if he felt he was in a good place. He just loves football. He wants to play football.”
The news then came to light a little while back that he’ll be off to Atletico Madrid on a free, where he’s set to link up with dogged manager Diego Simeone and play in the Champions League, which came as a blow to the Foxes, who were trying to get him to sign a new deal.
With him in such good form and looking revitalised, Atleti’s gain is definitely Leicester’s loss, as the Foxes would’ve loved to have a player of his calibre at their disposal in their quest for promotion back to the top flight.
A player who leads by example and who sets the tone for his colleagues to follow with his intense, fearless approach, he’s one of those players who teammates relish having on their side, for he’s intimidating, forceful and uncomfortable for opponents to face off with.
Enjoying every chance he gets to impose himself physically on his adversaries, he takes great pleasure in engaging and winning his duels, both on the ground and in the air, where he never takes a backwards step.
Quick to respond to opponents dropping deep with their back to goal or surging in behind from his usually powerful side-on stance so he can push off explosively, he likes to get touchtight and use his body to impede or unsettle his prey.
Not afraid to back himself and step up to apply his challenges or support his colleagues, this, in combination with his solid reading of the play, ensures he breaks up many an attack even if he can be a touch reckless and overzealous at times.
Holding his own aerially and comfortable dealing with crosses, set-pieces into the area and at helping his team regain second balls from goal-kicks, the man who picks up the ball’s trajectory and speed swiftly deals with headed confrontations effectively.
Combative and always one to valiantly put his body on the line to block shots, plus dive into headers and challenges, his all-action approach should endear him to the Atleti fans – just like it did at Leicester.
Meanwhile, in possession, the man who was deservedly named in the EPL team of the year in the 2019/2020 campaign is a competent passer and dribbler who can assist in build-up and in driving his team forward.
Technically sound with an eye for a pass, the two-footed former Freiburg star with a neat range of distribution has proven he’s effective at breaking the lines, switching the play, recycling possession and feeding runners with through balls over the top.
The fact he’s familiar with playing in many different systems and roles ensures he’s well placed to adapt to a range of demands depending on the opposition and his manager’s chosen formation.
Boasting many of the ingredients Simeone desires in his defenders, including bravery, tenacity and ferocity, it’s little wonder Atleti seized the opportunity to snap him up on a free even if he’s endured a tough spell in recent times.
Simeone will be hoping he can use his famous powers of motivation and incredible coaching acumen to help him return to his best. Not long ago when he was at the peak of his powers, it’s worth remembering what former Arsenal legend Martin Keown said of the talented Turk. “The more I see of Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu, the more I like him,” he explained.
“He is only 23 but the Turkey international looks like a defender who is made for the demands of the modern game – agile, aggressive and good in the air, but also brave on the ball too. On the ground, he gets in the faces of attackers and he also never panics when he is in possession. Whatever situation he is in, he never really looks troubled to me.”
Ready for a change of scenery and a reset in his career, it’ll be fascinating to see how things pan out for him in Spain, as it appears working under a coach like Simeone is the perfect fit for him.
Entering the prime of his career and jumping ship at the right time, Soyuncu’s departure will surely be the first of many for the relegated Foxes, as the Turk will much rather be playing on the grand Champions League stage than in the Championship cauldron.