Jamie Vardy can replicate his stunning form for Leicester City with England if he is left 'free' up front, according to his club manager Claudio Ranieri.
With Euro 2016 on the horizon, the 28-year-old is English football’s most prolific striker, scoring in eight consecutive Premier League matches, but is often utilised as a left-sided forward by Roy Hodgson for the national side.
Upon naming his squad for the forthcoming international friendlies against Spain and France next week, the England manager launched a staunch defence of his preference to play Wayne Rooney or Harry Kane over Vardy in the No 9 role down the centre.
“Jamie has only played a handful of games for England, he should be happy to be in the squad and even happier if he makes the team,” Hodgson told reporters at St George’s Park in Burton on Thursday.
50 miles down the M1, Ranieri was concurrently addressing that very topic with the media in Leicester ahead of the match against Quique Sánchez Flores’s Watford this afternoon.
“It is difficult because I am not Roy,” said the Italian, diplomatically. “He knows his team very well, he tries to put the best players in his squad.
“In my opinion Jamie has to be free. When he is free, he is amazing. We play with two strikers, not one, and I am not Roy. I respect him but for me, [Vardy] plays as a free forward.”
Vardy became the most expensive player to ever emerge from non-league football when he joined Leicester for £1m from Fleetwood in 2012. More recently described by team-mate Kasper Schmeichel as the best striker in the country, after scoring the decider in the 3-2 win against West Bromwich Albion last weekend, his meteoric rise refuses to tail off.
As he closes in on Ruud van Nistelrooy's record of hitting the target in ten consecutive top flight matches, it has been noted that Vardy often takes a year to acclimatise to new surroundings - a theory supported by lukewarm maiden campaigns in both the Championship and the Premier League.
With next summer’s tournament set to fall almost exactly 12 months after his international debut, a stalemate with the Republic of Ireland in June, the prophecy has already been written, in pencil at least, for him to make his mark on the international scene in France.
“Could be,” Ranieri agreed. “Because he is a smart boy. How he plays, how his brain works, it is very fast. He is used to playing fast, everything he tries to do, he tries to do it at 100mph. Now he is in great form, everything he does at the moment, he does well.”
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