LOSC’s Leny Yoro on the fast track

LOSC have the third-tightest defence in Ligue 1 Uber Eats, thanks in part to young gun Leny Yoro, who at just 18 years of age has established himself as an indisputable starter in the centre of defence.

The young defender started the season on the bench, but since the match at Lorient on 27 August (Round 3), he has not been out of Paulo Fonseca’s starting XI in the league. Impressively calm, the native of Saint-Maurice in the Paris region is a pillar of defensive solidity for the northern club, who have conceded only 11 goals in their first 12 matches this season.

In terms of total minutes played in Ligue 1 Uber Eats, the player who turned 18 on Monday is Lille’s fourth most-used outfield player (868 minutes) after Benjamin André (1,080), Ismaily (984) and Jonathan David (910).

His emergence has relegated 2018 world champion Samuel Umtiti to the bench, and his partnership with Alexsandro since the match at Le Havre (1 October) has made theirs the most effective central defensive pairing in the league during this period – just behind OGC Nice, who boast the league’s best defence (four goals conceded).

Fonseca: ‘He has a great future ahead of him’

In the six Ligue 1 Uber Eats matches since Paulo Fonseca installed this duo, his team have conceded just two goals: against Lens on October 8 (Round 8) and against Toulouse last Sunday (Round 12).

“He’s a very mature player and I think he has a great future ahead of him,” commented Fonseca on 16 September, following a 2-2 draw with Rennes in which his defender scored.

LOSC’s youth academy supremo Jean-Michel Vandamme is on the same page but isn’t about to encourage any laurel-resting.

“He’s got a good sense of movement and good timing, but when it comes to defensive aerial play, as he’s more on his back foot, I think he still needs to improve,” said the man who turned out in midfield for LOSC back in the late 70s. “He still needs to work on his strength.”

‘Accelerated learning curve’

The former LOSC – and Lens! – assistant coach is keeping a close eye on Yoro, who joined the club at the age of ten and has spent his entire time with Les Dogues. Vandamme is only half-surprised by the progress made by the player, who is only in his second season with the professionals.

“He’s had an accelerated learning curve because he only spent two years at the youth academy,” he explained. “Leny is a quick learner. He wants to excel and has a real interest in analysing different situations and understanding them, while putting himself under controlled pressure. The coach has an extremely precise and rigorous game plan, in which talent is important but respect for instructions is just as important. When the coach and staff give him advice, he listens, absorbs and applies it. The same is true when he receives advice from his team-mates.”

Another U21 call-up

Rémy Cabella, who at 33 is one of the most experienced players in the LOSC squad, joins in the praise: “At Marseille, I knew Boubacar Kamara, at Saint-Étienne, William Saliba and Wesley Fofana, and now there’s Leny Yoro. He has all the qualities and potential to do something huge. He’s very humble and that’s another of his strengths.”

For Sunday’s meeting with Toulouse, Paulo Fonseca once again started his young star in the centre of defence. Yoro once again showed his solidity, but also his ability to score, getting Les Dogues‘ only goal of the game. He turned in another good performance in the 1-1 UEFA Europa League draw in Bratislava on Thursday, where his being subbed off weakened Lille’s defence.

“Sometimes I forget that he’s only 17,” remarked the LOSC coach last week. France U21 coach Thierry Henry, meanwhile, has not forgotten, giving Yoro the call-up for the for the third time in a row.

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