Adrien Silva is looking forward to putting months of ‘frustration’ behind him after finally completing his registration as a Leicester player. The midfielder had been ineligible to play for the Foxes after the paperwork from his summer move from Sporting CP arrived 14 seconds late. Subsequent appeals to Fifa and the Court of Arbitration for Sport were rejected, meaning both the club and player had to wait until January for Silva to become eligible to play. Silva is excited about the prospect of now being able to make his debut for Leicester.
Born in France to a Portuguese father and French mother, Silva first began training with Bordeaux before moving to Portugal and signing for Sporting. But his fledgling association with the club almost ended prematurely when Silva found himself at the centre of a FIFA transfer dispute. The midfielder, aged 15 and accompanied by Portugal U16 team-mates Ricardo Fernandes and Fabio Ferreira, was scouted by Chelsea and invited to train with the club. Sporting filed a complaint and Chelsea dropped their interest, and while Fernandes and Ferreira eventually signed for Chelsea anyway, Silva stayed put. Silva first broke into the Sporting first team as an 18-year-old but struggled to find consistency, leading to loan spells with Maccabi Haifa and Academica. His stay in Israel was short-lived but he starred upon his return to Portugal, helping Academica to beat his parent club Sporting in the Portuguese Cup final. It was Academica’s first major trophy in 73 years and Silva was swiftly recalled the following season. He won Sporting’s Player of the Year award in 2013 and scored a career-best 10 goals the next campaign as Sporting lifted the Portuguese Cup for the first time since 2008. Since named club captain, he signed a contract extension in 2016 that reportedly includes a €45m (£40m) release clause.
Silva opted for Portugal despite eligibility for France and was a regular youth international before earning his first senior call-up in 2014. That came under Fernando Santos, who also selected Silva for Euro 2016 in the country of Silva’s birth. The Sporting captain was an unused substitute as Portugal squeezed into the knockout stage, drawing all three of their group games. But called into the line-up for the last-16 clash against Croatia, he impressed in the extra-time victory and kept his place as Portugal beat Poland, Wales and France on their way to winning their first major tournament.
Adrien Silva’s Style of Play
Effort and Energy is an important factor to be part of Leicester. In fact, since the Drinkwater and Kanté duo were first put together, it’s been the absolute minimum requirement to find a place in the Foxes midfield. Adrien certainly does qualify there. He’s a very hard working player, willing to cover whatever ground is necessary to get the defensive end of his job done. He’s also a very accomplished tackler, so he’ll get the job done once he gets there too. As you would expect from a man with 168 appearances for Sporting and 20 more for Portugal, almost exclusively in central midfield, the 28 year old is a capable passer. He was in the top 10 for passes completed in the Portuguese Primera Liga last year, with a healthy completion percentage in 80s. Importantly for the Foxes and their fast paced, counter attacking style, he isn’t just padding those numbers with sideways and backwards passes. According to Squawka, about 65% of his passes last year went forwards, which is pretty much in line with our midfielders over the last couple of years.
Looking back to Euro 2016, his performance against Croatia sums up his key attributes. Santos sacrificed Joao Moutinho’s creative vision for Silva’s pragmatic approach and it paid off as the Sporting star successfully shackled Luka Modric. It was further evidence his boundless energy and appetite for hard graft has not diminished since he broke into the Sporting team as a youngster. One of his first eye-catching displays actually came in a gritty goalless draw in the Lisbon derby back in 2009, when a 20-year-old Silva helped snuff out a talented Benfica team boasting Angel Di Maria, Ramires, Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola. That day Silva won plaudits in several Portuguese newspapers for covering more than 10km, the highest total of any Sporting player.
At 28 years old Adrien should be in his footballing prime right now and, much like Vicente Iborra earlier in the summer, arrives as the captain of his previous club. He spent the last four years as a key regular for Sporting, as they regularly finished in the top three. While he wasn’t able to achieve the league championship that we did in that time, but their consistent league performance means he has plenty of experience in both the Champions League and Europa League. The Portuguese national team also experienced his ability in knockout football; after being left out for the group games in Euro 2016, the defensive midfielder was recalled for the last 16 tie and kept his place throughout as Portugal went on to win the tournament.
Simply put, he isn’t Danny Drinkwater. That’s not necessarily to say he’s not a better player, which many people believe, but he’s not the same player. The defining characteristic of Drinkwater’s tenure in the Foxes’ midfield is his ability to get on the ball, and his teammates’ desire to look for him and allow him to run the play. Even when he was struggling for fitness at times last year, he almost always led the side in touches. For Sporting, that wasn’t Adrien Silva, it was William Carvalho. He may be able to take on that role, but he’s never shown it. The other obvious standout for Drinkwater was his ability to hit long balls over the top, usually into the path of a speeding Jamie Vardy. Over the last couple of years, Adrien has attempted less than half as many long balls per game than Drinky. While Sporting’s style of play is not entirely dissimilar to Leicester’s, the role he was asked to play is not the same one occupied by Danny Drinkwater, the man he was presumably brought in to replace. Nonetheless, not having been asked to control the game or play long passes (since Sporting had no Jamie Vardy) doesn’t mean he’s not able to necessarily, just that we don’t know for now. The best case scenario is that he’s a slight upgrade on Drinkwater, filling his role in the system nicely and at a profit. Worst (likely) case is that he’s still a good player, but the team will have to adapt slightly to cover for the loss of Drinkwater. Considering they were going to have to do that anyway, it looks like a good move.
We also like to end this article with a skills video of him in 2017.