How Leicester Can Keep Their Top Talent

SAMARA, RUSSIA - JULY 07: Harry Maguire of England celebrates following his sides victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Sweden and England at Samara Arena on July 7, 2018 in Samara, Russia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
SAMARA, RUSSIA - JULY 07: Harry Maguire of England celebrates following his sides victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Sweden and England at Samara Arena on July 7, 2018 in Samara, Russia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) /

Three weeks after selling Riyad Mahrez, Leicester are faced with another major transfer request. Manchester United are reportedly willing to pay upwards of £70 million for Harry Maguire. Though a record-breaking fee may to snatch away the young centre-back, a trend of young, talented players wanting to leave Leicester for greener pastures has begun.

Since winning the title two seasons ago, Leicester City established themselves as a mid-table club. Though this is respectable, the ambitions of Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha surpass the mediocre finishes of 12th and 9th place of the previous two campaigns.

Due to these high expectations, Srivaddhanaprabha and the Leicester Board gave Claude Puel a substantial transfer budget to bring in young players that can sling shot the Foxes back to prominence. However, with Riyad Mahrez forcing a sale to Manchester City and Harry Maguire becoming more and more interested in a move to Old Trafford, it looks as if the Foxes are becoming a stopping point for players to develop – before they can play for a “Big Six” team. Instead of, sadly, the club developing into a top quality club.

Selling the title-winning squad

Since winning the Premier League in May of 2016, the Foxes sold three key players of the title-winning starting XI. Those players have been N’golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, and Riyad Mahrez. It is important to note, however, the Foxes were forced to sell each of them by the players request and not because the club wanted to.

Unlike the other players that we will discuss; Kante had a release clause that avoided a messy split between him and the Foxes. The Frenchman soon was off to Chelsea for the bargain price of £32 million. Coming off a title-winning season with Leicester, Kante admitted it was not difficult for him to leave the Foxes. Kante desired to play for ‘a big club’ and believed Chelsea, unlike Leicester City, is a ‘title chasing side’. In an interview Kante stated:

"“At Leicester we wanted to win and not lose and to fight for every minute. At Chelsea it’s the same. But the difference is Chelsea is a champion club, who have won everything and there are champion players. At Leicester for nearly everyone it was the first time.” – N’golo Kante"

Kante was not the only player to leave for Stamford Bridge. After a disappointing 2016/17 campaign that left the Foxes in 12th place, Drinkwater forced through a transfer deadline day move to Chelsea for £35 million. Though he praised his time at Leicester and left the Foxes, “as a fan”, Drinkwater’s reason for leaving was to win more championships and play for a top-tier club, like Kante. Drinkwater stated about Chelsea:

"“It has been a long journey to get here but I am very happy and am looking forward to helping the club win more trophies.” – Danny Drinkwater"

Unsurprisingly, when Mahrez left for Man City earlier this month, he had the same emotions of leaving Leicester that Kante and Drinkwater had. Like his former teammates, Mahrez had nothing but praise for Leicester. Nonetheless, the Algerian international stubbornly forced through a transfer to the Etihad on the belief that his ambitions and talent had outgrown Leicester’s.

When being introduced as a Man City player, Mahrez’s reason for leaving Leicester was clear. He stated:

"“[Manchester] City’s performances last season were outstanding. They’re redefining the English game and I wanted to be a part of it”. – Riyad Mahrez"

Mahrez left Leicester for the same reason that Kante and Drinkwater did. All three players believed that Leicester are unable to become a top quality club and, because of it, chose to leave the club. However unsettling to Foxes, it looks like Harry Maguire may follow that same path.

Mourinho’s ideal centre-back

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho’s interest in signing Maguire is clear. News of the Red Devil’s interest has intrigued Maguire. With this speculation Maguire has said that though he is happy at Leicester, yet the former Hull City player wants to play at the absolute highest level. Maguire states:

"“Leicester City have been unbelievable to me and I’m really happy there but I’m also an ambitious player and everyone wants to play at the top.” – Harry Maguire"

Maguire’s statement rhymes with that of Kante, Drinkwater, and Mahrez. Though they enjoyed their time at Leicester – they all believed that the club would never become a world-class organisation.

Maguire seems all in on a move to Old Trafford, with reports from Sky Sports stating that the World Cup wonder wants to leave Leicester for United. He expects to be playing as a Red Devil before the first game of the season against, ironically enough, Leicester.

Whether Maguire will leave or not will be decided in the near future. However, the greater issue at hand for Leicester is how to convince their young stars to stay and grow with the club.

Puel’s challenge

Claude Puel knows all to well about this challenge. With the selling of Mahrez and interest in players like Maguire or Schmeichel, Puel has made it clear that he wants to transform Leicester City into a top class club. Puel confirms this belief:

"“If our players are interesting a lot of clubs it is because we made good recruitment and work in our training sessions. It is important to continue this work. Of course, when we welcome them (Maguire and Jamie Vardy) back I hope we can to give them the opportunity to continue their ambition and perform in the Premier League.” – Claude Puel"

This season will be an important one for Puel and Leicester. The Midlands club has invested millions on new players for the upcoming season. More importantly though, Puel and Leicester are trying to become a top-seven quality club.

If Leicester continues to be a mediocre mid-table club – young, high quality players won’t attract to King Power or become destined to leave. If Leicester keep Maguire this season and the club ends up 10th with no European football, he will certainly leave in 2019. Among others to potentially have their heads turned could be established Premier League stars like: Wilfred Ndidi, Kasper Schmeichel or new, promising players like James Maddison and Ricardo Pereira.

Proving players should stay at Leicester City

In the end, Leicester have an exciting but consequential season ahead of them. If the Foxes play up to the high expectations that Puel has placed on them – the Foxes can prove to players on their roster that they are a squad on the rise, can learn, grow, and develop with a club doing the same thing.

Must Read. Schmeichel, Maguire - STAYING!. light

However, if Leicester have another season of mid-table quality football, then the young, high quality talent that the Foxes have may leave for greener pastures. With hopes of becoming a team that can keep their best players – Puel and the Foxes will have to win and climb the table. Not only for Premier League success, but to prove to the squad that Leicester City is the place they need stay.