Australia defender Harry Souttar has been rewarded for a breakout World Cup campaign with a big-money move to Premier League club Leicester City.
The 24-year-old’s signing on a five-and-a-half-year deal from Stoke City was confirmed by the Midlands club before midnight on transfer deadline day.
The reported fee of £15m ($26m), with £5m in add-ons, is the highest for an Australian player, beating the £10m Manchester City paid Huddersfield for fellow Socceroo Aaron Mooy in 2017-18.
Leicester managed to see off competition from West Ham and Wolves for the Scotland-born player, who makes the step up from the Championship to Premier League after a string of impressive performances during Australia’s run to the last 16 in Qatar.
Graham Arnold’s team bowed out 2-1 to eventual champions Argentina but not before Souttar and his teammates gave Lionel Messi’s team an almighty scare with their never-say-die approach right to the end.
One of the defining moments from the Socceroos’ campaign was Souttar’s last-ditch tackle to deny Tunisia a goal-scoring chance in Australia’s 1-0 group stage win.
“I’m delighted to join such a great football club and challenging myself in the Premier League is an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down,” Souttar said in a statement. “There are world-class facilities here and a squad full of fantastic players so I can’t wait to get started.”
Souttar’s acquisition will be a major boost for Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, who has seen his team leak goals in an unconvincing Premier League campaign this season. Dundee United are also expected to profit from the move as Souttar was a former academy player at the Scottish Premier League club.
Souttar was born in Scotland and featured for the country at Under-17 and Under-19 level. But he qualified to play for the Socceroos because his mother was born in Port Hedland in Western Australia.
The 198cm defender made his Socceroos debut in 2019 just days after setting foot in Australia for the first time. His hopes of featuring for Australia at the 2022 World Cup were hanging by a thread after he tore his ACL while playing for the Socceroos in November 2021. Souttar made his playing return just in time for the World Cup and was able to shine at the showpiece event despite his lack of match practice.
He will go straight into the Foxes’ matchday squad for Saturday’s Premier League clash at Aston Villa.