Leicester Righting Last Summer’s Transfer Errors

 • by Simon Collings
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It would be safe to say after the magical rollercoaster of the 2015/16 campaign, last season was a return to reality for Leicester City.

After sensationally being crowned Premier League champions, despite the bookmakers pricing them up at 5000/1, the Foxes ended up finishing 12th in the table last term.

There was, of course, the brilliant run to the Champions League quarter-finals where they were narrowly defeated by Atlético Madrid, but domestically progress proved much more difficult.

Title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri was sacked in February as the club flirted with relegation and it was not until Craig Shakespeare stepped forward did the ship begin to steady towards the relative safety of mid table.

Looking back on it now it may be that hindsight is blinding us, but the cracks were there for all to see as Leicester began their recruitment drive last summer after being crowned champions.

Adding to a squad that has just won the title is much more difficult than it appears. How do you improve upon a team that has just conquered all before them? And how do you tell a certain individual he is no longer in the first-team when he has just played such a key role?

It is partly why Sir Alex Ferguson was so successful at Manchester United as he was able to perfectly judge the right amount of players to bring in to ensure the level of quality within the squad didn’t drop.

The big fear at the start of the summer was that Leicester would be ransacked for all their star players who had helped make them Premier League champions. Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kanté and Riyad Mahrez were the three most wanted players – but in the end only one left.

That came about as Kanté joined Chelsea for £32million, but after that there was no mass exodus. Vardy snubbed an offer from Arsenal and Mahrez also promised to stay put to help the club during its debut season in the Champions League.

Other key individuals, including goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and midfielder Danny Drinkwater, now a Chelsea transfer target, were also kept hold of and tied down to new contracts as Leicester expertly managed phase one of the summer transfer window.

However, when it the priority turned to incomings the success story came to a grinding halt.

It started in auspicious circumstances as head of recruitment Steve Walsh left to take up a role at Everton. From there it began to unravel.

The defence was solely strengthened by free transfer Luis Hernández and six months later he was out the door and on his way to Málaga.

In midfield, a solution had to be found of how to cope without Kanté. In came Nampalys Mendy from Nice for a then club record £13million, but injuries hampered his ability to settle and he looks set for a return to France now.

Leicester broke their transfer record again to bring in Ahmed Musa for £16million from CSKA Moscow. However, he too has failed to settle and the exit door is reportedly open for him.

Fellow winger Bartosz Kapustka, who arrived with plenty of promise and for £7.5million, has now joined Freiburg on loan. During his time in Germany he may well face Ron-Robert Zieler as the goalkeeper, despite only joining Leicester a year ago, has now left for Stuttgart.

The final nail in the coffin came towards the end of the window as the Foxes broke their transfer record for a third and final time. This time it was the £28million capture of Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani that did the trick. However, after a season in which he scored just eight times, the Algerian is reportedly set to be shipped out.

The fact that Leicester have, or are ready to sell, so many of last summer’s buys sums up the situation. That window was a failure, but this time around there should be plenty of optimism for Foxes fans.

After last summer, Leicester appear to have learned their lessons and they have impressed in an expensive market this summer.

Harry Maguire has arrived from Hull City for £17million, meaning that centre-backs Robert Huth and Wes Morgan now have someone who will put their places in the team under serious pressure.

The centre of midfield has been addressed too with Vicente Iborra joining from Sevilla for around £12milllion. The 29-year-old brings with him plenty of experience and, crucially, a contrasting style to Leicester’s other options in the middle of the park. The club are not searching for a Kanté replacement, but instead allowing the team to evolve by searching for other solutions.

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Goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic is another piece of business from Hull that looks like money well spent at a cost of just £2million. Unlike Zieler, he has proven himself in the Premier League and he will be the perfect back-up for Schmeichel this season.

The final piece of the jigsaw and, undoubtedly the jewel in the crown, is the signing of Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City. Signed for £25milllion, which in the current market looks like a snip, he is a striker who has already shown glimpses of his talent in England. Unlike Slimani, the Nigerian’s quick and pacey approach should suit Leicester perfectly and a lethal strike force with Vardy looks on the cards.

When it is all totalled up, Leicester have spent around £10million less this summer than they did 12 months ago and, in an inflated market, that is some achievement.

Crucially too their additions this time around appear more suited to their style and better equipped to succeed in the Premier League. Moreover business has been done quickly and there is unlikely to be a Slimani like splurge in the final days of the window again.

The final task now, though, is channelling on one experience from last summer and that is finding a way to keep hold of Roma transfer target Mahrez.