Crystal Palace have reportedly identified RB Leipzig midfielder Ilaix Moriba as a summer transfer target.
Patrick Vieira has made four additions to his first-team squad this season. Sam Johnstone, Chris Richards, Cheick Doucoure and Malcolm Ebiowei are all expected to challenge for regular starting roles this campaign. However, Vieira is in the market for more additions in the coming weeks, and it appears that an attempt is being made to sign one of European football’s biggest prospects, after arguably their best player last season, Conor Gallagher returned to his parent club, Chelsea.
According to French outlet Foot Mercato, the Eagles are very interested in Guinean midfielder Ilaix Moriba. Under contract until 2026, RB Leipzig still holds all the power as Palace look to pry the 19-year-old from the German outfit.
Ilaix Moriba – Career so far
Despite not turning 20 years of age until January, Moriba has already spent time with three of European football’s most high-profile clubs since his introduction to the senior ranks.
The 19-year-old turned down the opportunity to pen a long-term contract at Barcelona earlier in his career due to wanting more guarantees of first-team action, eventually departing Camp Nou with five starts and 13 substitute appearances to his name.
The talented Guinea international eventually signed for RB Leipzig last August, only to move out on loan to Valencia five months later after making just six substitute outings during the first half of 2021-22.
Moriba was finally given regular game time at the Mestalla, making nine starts and five substitute outings in La Liga to get his career back on track.
Leipzig boss Domenico Tedesco must now decide whether to keep the player around his first team squad, or let him go out on loan or on a permanent deal.
What would Moriba bring to Selhurst Park?
Vieira has very quickly transformed a lethargic Roy Hodgson side into one of the more promising and pleasing on the eye teams in the league, with young exciting talent across the pitch. Cheick Doucoure, Ebere Eze, Michael Olise, and Marc Guehi all form the base of what is an outstanding cross of young fledgling footballing stars.
Adding another youthful midfielder to the squad would only reinforce their progressive and sustainable model further, building the next layer for what could be a sensational team in the near future.
Last season, the teenager made 24 appearances across spells at both RB Leipzig and La Liga outfit Valencia on-loan, featuring 14 times in La Liga for the latter during his loan spell.
Moriba has long been considered one of the most exciting and accomplished young midfielders on the continent, and is clearly in need of an environment and a club that will allow with the chance to express himself on a regular basis, and to thrive. The culture and aura that Patrick Vieira is instilling in South London may just be the perfect environment for him.
Dubbed “brilliant” by journalist Alex Brotherton, Moriba has earned several praises for his combative and assured performances in the middle of the park. He’s also brought favourable comparisons to former Manchester United superstar Paul Pogba, due to his lanky size, languid and technically astute abilities on the ball.
Ilaix Moriba is ranked in the top 2% for pressures per 90, and top 2% again for successful pressures among positional peers in Europe’s top five leagues last term, and this relentlessness in the engine room for Palace could replace what was lost in Conor Gallagher.
He also outlined his defensive credentials last season, with 3.15 tackles and 2.17 aerial duels won per 90, whilst still managing 1.77 shots per game.
Also, he ranks in the top 5% for tackles in the middle third per90 and to 1% for pressures in the same area, showing he can add much combativeness, cutting edge and midfield thrust out of possession.
Moriba could be the Eagles’ quintessential all-action midfielder, capable of fulfilling a number of roles such as a deep-lying playmaker, a box-to-box midfielder or an advanced central midfielder. Just imagine the partnership he could form with the likes of Ebere Eze and Cheick Doucoure in Patrick Vieira’s midfield, a tantalising and jaw-dropping prospect for the Palace faithful.
His arrival would certainly add much-needed depth at Selhurst Park, and with Vieira having reportedly spoken to the player himself, the Palace boss must well hold him in high regard. That alone should be enough to convince the fans of his suitability to this exciting Eagles crop of talents.