Enzo Maresca’s squad rebuild could be about to take a hit as one of his favoured midfielders may still leave Leicester City. Four games into the Maresca era, it feels as if the Italian knows which midfielders he wants to keep at the club, but his hands could yet be forced as the transfer links to Dennis Praet refuse to die down.
Coming into the season, Praet was one player who many fans had expected to leave. The Belgian is currently in the last 12 months of his contract at LCFC and was reluctant to play in the Championship following the club’s damning relegation.
However, after Maresca’s arrival, expectation changed as the manager frequently used Praet in pre-season with the 29-year-old impressing. In the season opener against Coventry City, Praet’s arrival off the bench signalled the Foxes’ comeback; he set up the equaliser with a gorgeous cross to Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and improved the overall quality of the play going forward.
He then started the next two games against Burton Albion and Huddersfield before being absent from the squad against Cardiff City. Eyebrows were initially raised when Praet missed out – Maresca has made a point of not including the likes of Patson Daka, Timothy Castagne or Boubakary Soumare in his matchday squads whilst they all seek moves away from the King Power – but the manager calmed nerves when his absence was revealed to be from a small injury.
After seeing several games of ‘Maresca-ball’, fans and pundits have noticed how key the No.8 role is for the Italian. He is seemingly settled on the options at his behest, with Praet, Harry Winks, Dewsbury-Hall and Cesare Casadei natural No.8s. Meanwhile the new boss has moulded both Wilfred Ndidi’s and Hamza Choudhury’s game to play further up the field, whilst Ricardo Pereira also slots into that role.
Notably, whilst listing his options in midfield, Maresca stated that ‘Dennis has probably a little more quality than the others’, unsurprising given that Praet has made 15 senior appearances for Belgium, playing with and learning from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco, and Eden Hazard. It’s understood that Maresca isn’t expecting to sign any other midfielders in the window and has now set his sights on improving his attacking options.