Christian Fuchs – Leicester City

MLS expansion side Charlotte FC made a big splash last weekend, announcing the signing of left back and Premier League champion Christian Fuchs as he departs Leicester City.

The move was a long time in the making, with initial conversations beginning the week before the COVID-19 pandemic forced global shutdowns in March 2020. The transfer was delayed by a year, but Fuchs has been eager to make it for a number of reasons.

The Austrian defender was in touch with Charlotte sporting director Zoran Krneta and special advisor Steve Walsh, who played a key role in assembling Leicester City's squad that shocked the world in 2015-16 by winning England's top flight. The 35-year-old said Walsh pitched him on the idea after their paths crossed.

"It doesn’t take a lot to convince me when Steve Walsh is involved, because so far he has given me a lot of pleasure in my career," Fuchs said in a virtual press conference. "When he’s telling me, ‘Listen, this is something legit. This is something very good that’s growing in Charlotte that’s coming into MLS,’ that’s all he needs to tell me. ... I was convinced very easily, to say it that way."

Walsh and Krneta weren't the only people encouraging Fuchs to cross the Atlantic. The defender's wife and children live in New York, which meant he had to travel to see them. A desire to shorten that trip ensured his wife became a crucial part of the recruitment process.

"Being in the US was the easy part," said Fuchs, who signed a one-year contract with a one-year option as a domestic player. "The hard part was that, when I signed for Leicester in 2015, I signed for three years and said in 2018, 'I’m home.' Well, it’s 2021 now, so that was the hard part. ... She was the one that said, ‘You need to go there,’ so she had to convince me.”

During his travels stateside, Fuchs said he caught several MLS games. It gave him a window into the league's growth, particularly in regard to the number of players emerging from MLS academies.

"I even saw then how the game got better," Fuchs said. "I think it’s some good football being played here. I think the young players that are breaking through the cracks, that are pushing into the national team and are now also playing internationally shows that there’s really good talent in this country."

Fuchs was drawn to MLS teams' ability to attack, something he confirmed through conversations with New York Red Bulls forward Daniel Royer, his former teammate with Austria's national team. Krneta also pitched Charlotte's desire to be on the front foot, an approach Fuchs feels familiar in.

"From my conversation with the club officials is that they want to play attractive football, football that’s based in possession, something that I’ve done at Leicester for the last couple of years, something that I’m very attracted to," Fuchs said. "It should be football that excites our fans, that makes them want to see more, that makes them look forward to the next game and the next game."

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Charlotte, ahead of their 2022 launch, now have five players signed. Fuchs said their philosophy will naturally change once a coach comes in, and he's not in a position to disclose any updates there.

"I remember asking [Krneta] who’s going to be the head coach and he would not say anything," Fuchs said. "He would give me some hints, which is great. They didn’t lead to anything."

As Fuchs waits for news on his new boss and Charlotte's first preseason, he's looking for a club that will allow him to stay sharp ahead of 2022. He said that Leicester City is a possible destination for a short-term deal, with training sessions and match fitness in demand before his inaugural MLS campaign.

Up first is a long-awaited pause after pandemic-caused delays left players across Europe navigating a condensed schedule in 2020-21. He's currently in New York taking a break, but already sees the momentum building in Charlotte.

"Having been in Charlotte over the weekend," Fuchs commented, "I made the right decision."

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