When Leicester were still on top of the table come March of last season, it was time to start taking the Foxes seriously as title contenders.
And when they won the league two months later, there was a unified cry from the masses of Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United, amongst many other fans, that Claudio Ranieri’s side would never again reach the dizzying heights of not only being Premier League champions, but Champions League participants to go with it.
This summer’s transfer window has wielded rumours and transfers bids alike that are totally and utterly beyond sense. Surprisingly, Leicester are the orchestrators of such madness, bidding £25m for Watford’s Troy Deeney and offering more than £10m for Burnley’s Michael Keane. The latter of whom plied his trade in the Championship last season as the Clarets won the Championship.
A weak explanation for Leicester’s clearly impulsive transfer efforts would be that the club is trying to flaunt their new found mass wealth as a statement to their Premier League rivals that they are now here to stay amongst the big fish of the Europe. In one sense, it shows the club ambition, and that is admirable, but on the other hand such a clearly reckless transfer policy has never led a football club down a positive long term path. Just take a look at Portsmouth, still residing in League Two, or Rangers, who have only just been promoted back into the Scottish Premier League.
The various rumours whirling in mass media pages this summer are indicative of Europe finally showing their hand and challenging Ranieri’s outfit before a ball is kicked. As with most teams who overachieve remarkably in a season, the following summer’s windows lures the vultures lying in wait to poach innumerous players; the same situation applies to Leicester. Jamie Vardy’s links with London giants Arsenal and whispers that Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante could combine together in the colours of Paris Saint Germain never fail to appear in the morning gossip column.
Quite simply, however, behind the veil of mass support and positive marketing for campaigns in Europe and the battle to defend the title in 2016/17, lies a very worried Leicester City. That is certainly a strange statement to make about a team who have just won the Premier League title, but enormous changes have been made to Leicester, and the meagre aspirations of the board and the players alike have been rocketed in the past year.
What lies ahead is the great unknown. The club have never competed in the Premier League and Champions League before, which for even the biggest sides is by no means an easy task. Quite often, one cannot live with the other, and sacrifices have to be made. Fantastic managers such as Manuel Pellegrini have been forced to acknowledge it’s necessary to rest players and renounce points in the Premier League in order to have ready and prepared individuals for an important Champions League tie. The difference here, of course, is that the team Pep Guardiola is inheriting have had years to hone his talent, whereas, for Leicester, a new experience awaits.
But this new experience has also instigated panic in the minds of both Claudio Ranieri and the Leicester board. Although Ranieri has experience in Europe and this will undoubtedly aid his charges, the vast majority of players are yet to wrestle the likes of Andres Iniesta for possession in the Nou Camp, or attempt to break down a stubborn Juventus defence.
When Jamie Vardy looked destined to exchange the King Power for the Emirates, Leicester’s blind impulsiveness truly showed with the insistence of shoving £20 million down the throat of Watford for Troy Deeney. Many fans could not decipher what was more stupid; Leicester offering such an exorbitant amount or Watford rejecting the fee.
Further signs of the cracks at Leicester are portrayed by the club’s pig-headed stubbornness to demand £10m for Ben Chillwell, a left-back who is yet to play in the Premier League. It is understandable for a club to want their young players to remain with them and progress to the first-team, but demanding an incredulous price for an untested youngster is just one example of Leicester’s naivety in the modern market. It’s no surprise that Liverpool have decided to look elsewhere after their £7m bid for Chillwell was rejected.
Should Leicester City convince the holy trinity of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante to remain with the club for longer than a season, they need to become more shrewd in the transfer market. They are competing with the big fish now, and they do not want to be swallowed whole.