Another summer, another transfer saga for Leicester City fans to lose sleep over.
Ever since the Foxes secured an impossible Premier League title in 2016, they have sold one first-team player per season – often for mouthwatering fees.
First out of the exit door was N’Golo Kante, although his release clause makes him the exception not the rule. Next up Danny Drinkwater followed him to Stamford Bridge for £35m. Riyad Mahrez, Harry Maguire and most recently, Ben Chilwell, then slipped out of the exit door.
At the beginning of the summer it appeared that Youri Tielamans would follow in their footsteps. The Belgian had just had the best campaign of his career, appeared to wave an emotional goodbye to the fans at the end of the last game of the season and, most worryingly of all, seemed to fit Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum-shaped hole perfectly.
However, in more recent times it has become clear that Tielemans will be sticking around. As 90min revealed recently, Leicester are hoping to tie him down to a new contract before the start of the season and have no intention of letting him depart.
Just as one potential rumour was quashed, though, another began to pick up steam. Namely, James Maddison to Arsenal.
The Gunners’ interest is genuine and Leicester are not dead set against the move – provided the price is right. That price is thought to be in excess of £70m, which would make Maddison the Foxes’ second most lucrative sale ever.
The question is: should Leicester cash in? We’re leaning heavily towards a resounding no.
Although Maddison ended the season in rotten form – likely a by-product of an ongoing hip problem which ruled him out for around a month in February – he has been an important player since joining from Norwich City back in 2018.
During his first two seasons few players in Europe’s big five leagues created more chances than him. Although not a truly elite ball carrier, his set-piece delivery and incisive passing make him difficult to defend against in the final third.
Last term he also added more goals to his game, striking once every three Premier League 90 minutes – the best figures of his Leicester career so far.
However, a player being a vital part of the team has not been enough to prevent Leicester selling in the past. So, what is different with Maddison?
Most notably, it is hard to see a replacement in the Leicester squad. When Kante left, Wilfred Ndidi was waiting just around the corner – albeit after a few months of waiting. When Drinkwater departed both Vicente Iborra and Adrien Silva were drafted in. When Maguire was snapped up, Caglar Soyuncu went on to get in the PFA Team of the Year ahead of him. When Chilwell went to Chelsea, James Justin, Timothy Castagne and Luke Thomas all rose to the challenge at left-back
Is Maddison does leave so close to the transfer deadline, Leicester will have one of three options: give the misfiring Ayoze Perez 40+ games and hope for the best; push Tielemans up, who has underwhelming in an advanced midfield role previously, or recalibrate their system to not require Maddison at all.
All three options are less than ideal.
This means they would likely have to delve into the transfer market to find a new number ten. As they learned when Maguire left on the eve of the new season, it is impossible to find value when other clubs know you are both desperate and newly monied. This makes keeping Maddison around, at least for now, a no brainer.
Furthermore, Leicester are under zero pressure to sell. Not only did they finish three places and five points ahead of Arsenal last season, they also hold the trump card of European football, a stronger squad and a more respected coach. Sorry Gunners fans, it’s true.
It seems the only way this deal is getting done then is by Maddison applying some pressure to the club. While 90min does understand that he likes the idea of living in the capital – likely as it will give him more leverage when negotiating his next boohooMAN deal – Rodgers recently revealed that no players have expressed an interest in leaving this summer.
Therefore, while Arsenal fans may be smitten with the idea of securing Maddison’s signature, this is the perfect time for Leicester to break their reputation as a selling club and assert their authority as a member of the so-called big six.