Leicester City’s winter of discontent passed long ago. It culminated quite gloriously in the summer title party which captivated the world. The sight of a lachrymose Claudio Ranieri stood alongside Andrea Bocelli, clad in royal blue, sits alone as one of the purest examples of how football can still provide the romance thought lost to halcyon days of old.
But that was supposed to be the final turn of the page. The civic pride felt across the Leicestershire region could only carry them so far as the vultures swirled above, ready to pick the bones of perhaps the most unlikely title-winning squad in living memory.
Ever since foreign (and Sky television) billions poured into English football’s every nook and cranny in the early 1990s, there has been a strict adherence to the Darwinian principle. N’Golo Kante’s departure to Chelsea, for £32m, seemed to confirm its return. Survival of the fittest – or, in football terms, the richest – would surely restore order after a blip last term.
Leicester’s transfer window, however, has been another show of defiance to the establishment. Jamie Vardy was courted by Arsene Wenger but spurned Arsenal’s advances despite his relative seniority, for a striker at least, at 29-years-old. The PFA Player of the Year, Riyad Mahrez, too, was the object of Wenger’s affections but no transfer materialised.
The dastardly duo were joined by Kasper Schmeichel, Andy King, Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater, Marc Albrighton and, of course, Ranieri in committing their futures to the King Power Stadium. The club-record signing of Islam Slimani, though, is perhaps the most significant act yet. The ‘fearless’ Foxes have turned around a summer that should have carried pain and heartbreak and turned it into a thoroughly successful transfer window.
Leicester’s newfound extravagance may seem like a change of stratagem after being lauded for their frugality when procuring Vardy, Mahrez, Kante et al. On the contrary, it's business as usual for the Premier League champions. That trio were spotted by Steve Walsh, the club’s former head of recruitment, who left to become Ronald Koeman’s director of football at Everton. Walsh’s influence is still being felt, however, with the Lancastrian doing the groundwork on deals to sign Nampalys Mendy and Ahmed Musa.
Slimani, too, is a long-term target for the Foxes going back to Nigel Pearson’s spell in the East Midlands. Leicester are preparing for a trip to Club Brugge next month, the first of three European junkets, in a September schedule which includes fixtures against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. As much as Ranieri sticks to his 40-point mantra, splurging £28m on an internationally renowned striker suggests his Leicester troops have far loftier aspirations.
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