The winter transfer window swiftly approaches, as does AFCON in January. A double knock to the King Power side as Enzo Maresca seeks to retain his precious talent, oust some deadwood, refresh the squad, and maintain momentum at the summit. The Foxes must maximise the gains yet minimise disruptions to the team.
It comes as no surprise therefore that supporters question the long term futures of several players as well as the playtime of others in lieu of the incoming AFCON campaign. Remember, Tom Cannon, Dennis Praet, and Coady have barely featured, meanwhile both Kelechi Iheanacho and Ndidi are going to be called up for Nigeria.
Leicester City's Nigerian Midfielder
The Foxes love Ndidi. After joining the side during what seemed like a golden age for some signings mixed with horrendous choices, the Nigerian defensive midfielder made that DM spot his own, pushing academy product Hamza Choudhury to the sidelines and becoming absolutely critical. However, not all great things last forever.
The player's contract expires in June 2024: so, unless a new deal is signed, Ndidi will leave Leicester on a free transfer when the summer window opens. This would be devastating: to think the King Power club could once have commanded a significant fee for the juggernaut, and now possibly lose him for nothing.
Hence, the question was posed: 'do we sell in Jan?'. According to Jordan Blackwell, the likelihood is Leicester City will not look to sell the player, or would at least be reluctant. The priority for the Foxes is of course Premier League promotion, so it would be illogical to significantly weaken the squad. That is a fair conclusion: no sale.
However, myself, I see the situation slightly differently. We already know that Maresca's backroom staff are scouting out creative and progressive midfielders for this winter window. We know that the Nigerian DM has not been the lone player for that position, with Dennis Praet, Cesare Casadei, and even Choudhury available who could perform in that position. That is not to mention the incoming youth stars such as Wanya Marcal-Madivadua, Will Alves, or the injured Sammy Braybrooke.
So, the Foxes would be without the player in January anyway, this is their last chance to get money for the talent, they are searching for a replacement for that spot, and there exist plenty of options in the squad. I feel Wilfred Ndidi would best be sold this winter so Maresca can work on a long term replacement while we are still in the Championship rather than trying to mould a player in the EPL.
The Centre-back Debate
At the end of that dismal Premier League campaign, it seemed obvious that Jannik Vestergaard would be sold, Caglar Soyuncu would depart, Jonny Evans would leave, and that Harry Souttar plus a new signing would form the defensive core of Leicester City. Well, this did not fully come to pass: the Dane stayed, Souttar has barely featured, and new signing Coady has not been used much.
But why? Well, along with Harry Winks and Mads Hermansen, Vestergaard is the Italian head coach's top choice. Even Wout Faes has played less than the Danish giant. That was quite a turnaround from last campaign. To be fair to the player, he has performed excellently and seldom puts a foot wrong: this is likely why he remains in the team.
This has left Coady out of the team. Faes and Callum Doyle (before being injured) were the natural choices for that progressive centre-back role on either flank, and Vestergaard got his chance when Coady was injured. To break into a King Power side currently sitting atop the summit, that has only ever lost three games this season and continues to win at an extraordinary rate, would be very difficult.
The English defender merely has to buy his time and wait patiently as Patson Daka has done. Coady needs Vestergaard to either pick up an injury or suspension. When that time comes, I back the Englishman to take centre-stage and gain that starting spot.
It seems the future will be decided with this crucial winter window. Should Leicester City sell either or both of the Nigerians, possibly even Daka (although unlikely in my opinion), and sign a midfielder, then of course the team will be more prepared for next season. Whereas continuing to used Vestergaard and holdout with Ndidi means we will likely lose money, and Coady will not be ready for prime time when the Foxes return to the Premier League.