Crystal Palace have reportedly agreed on personal terms with Lens midfielder Cheick Doucoure over a summer move to Selhurst Park, though they are yet to agree on a transfer fee with the Ligue 1 side.
The 22-year-old has been the subject of continued transfer interest from the Eagles over the last month, with Palace boss Patrick Vieira keen to boost his midfield ranks ahead of the 2022/23 season. The Frenchman is said to be a keen admirer of Doucoure and has made him the club’s number one transfer target ahead of the transfer window officially opening on Friday, June 10.
Doucoure played 37 games for Lens last season primarily as a defensive midfielder, scoring his only goal of the campaign during a 3-0 victory over Nice in Ligue 1. Palace have regularly utilized Senegal international Cheikhou Kouyate in the holding role of Vieira’s preferred 4- 3-3 formation this season, though the 32-year-old is yet to agree terms on a new contract with his current deal expiring at the end of June.
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Doucoure would represent an ideal long-term replacement for Kouyate and would go straight into Palace’s strongest starting XI should a move to south London materialize, but as reported by French newspaper L’Equipe this week, the deal still has some way to go before it can be finalized. The report states that Doucoure is keen on a move to the Premier League with Palace and that personal terms between the player and club have already been agreed. The biggest potential stumbling block, however, is the transfer fee, with Lens currently asking for £ 21million to allow their midfielder to leave.
Doucoure still has two years left on his current deal at the Estadio Bollaert-Delelis, so the power remains with the French club, though Palace are said to be pushing for a deal to be completed before they head off on their pre-season tour to Singapore and Australia next month.
What would Doucoure bring?
Doucoure has often been compared to Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho thanks to his strong passing range and ability to break up play in the center of the pitch.
Compared to other players that play in his position across Europe’s top five leagues (Premier League, Ligue 1, Serie A, La Liga and Bundesliga), Doucoure ranks among the best in the game for his progressive passes (6.26 per 90 minutes) and progressive carries of the ball (6.87p / 90) while he also scores highly for interceptions and pass completion rate as per FBref.
Other than Jorginho, he has also been likened to Champions League winner Luka Modric and the new Real Madrid signing Aurelien Tchouameni. Compared to Palace’s Kouyate and James McArthur, who together have played most frequently in holding midfield for the Eagles. Doucoure has almost doubled the number of touches of the ball than either player, as well as moving the ball more often, registering 1911 live passes in Ligue 1 last season compared to 770 for Kouyate and 880 for McArthur.
It’s important to note the differences between Ligue 1 and the more intense style of play in the Premier League, which often affords players less time on the ball. Vieira’s managerial style would seem to suit Doucoure well, though, with the Frenchman preferring his holding midfielder to break up play often and contribute to getting the ball up the pitch quickly after winning it back.
With two strong passers of the ball directly behind him in Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen, Doucoure would act as a screen in defense and be tasked with carrying the ball out of danger where possible. He is highly unlikely to fulfill a role similar to that of the departing Conor Gallagher, with Palace instead eyeing up more mobile players like Rangers’ Joe Aribo to play further up in midfield and join the forwards during attacks.