Leicester may wait until later in the transfer window, in the hope that prices fall, as they look to strengthen their squad for an assault on four competitions.
A lot of Foxes fans are questioning why the finances are so tight, after the club received £130m from the sale of two key players – Harry Maguire to Manchester United and Ben Chilwell to Chelsea – in the last two summer windows.
There is not one simple answer to that question.
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Though manager Brendan Rodgers’ stark assessment before the opening game of the season, where he said categorically that Leicester’s squad is not big enough to compete effectively in the Premier League, Europa League, EFL Cup and FA Cup, suggests he has real concerns for the next 10 months of football.
Leicester have so far spent £21.5m on a single signing – versatile defender Timothy Castagne from Atalanta. He’s already had a big impact, scoring on his debut, and putting in a man-of-the-match performance. But Leicester’s squad is worryingly bare in other areas.
First and foremost, Leicester need another centre-back. They haven’t recruited one since Maguire left for Old Trafford in August last year. Caglar Soyuncu’s brilliant emergence solved a problem last season, but it’s still an area where Leicester are horribly under-resourced. If Jonny Evans or Soyuncu are absent, Leicester are struggling. Which is why Wilfred Ndidi stepped into central defence for the season opener against West Brom.
For all of Wes Morgan’s brilliant and loyal service to Leicester, he cannot be relied upon for more than a handful of games a season. He currently has a hamstring strain. Filip Benkovic has a hip problem, but Rodgers doesn’t see him as a viable option – he’s yet to make a Premier League appearance in over two years.
After Maguire left, Leicester inquired about Nathan Ake, but were quoted in excess of £80m by Bournemouth for the defender. Understandably, Leicester’s bosses didn’t think it good value to spend more on bringing Ake in than they had received for Maguire.
Rodgers was keen on Burnley’s James Tarkowski too – he still is. But again, Leicester have seen West Ham fail with a £30m bid for the England international, and they don’t want to pay more than that. As a result, head of recruitment Lee Congerton is scouring the international market in search of a bargain – maybe at a club that is in a much worse financial state than Leicester, and one which will have to sell a prized asset for a discount price to stay afloat.
Otherwise, loan deals are a real possibility to get them through a packed 10-month period of football. That may prove their best recourse when it comes to the search for a winger too.
So, where has all that £130m gone?
Well, for a start it would be wrong to assume that all of that money arrived in Leicester’s coffers as up-front cash. And it would be equally wrong to assume that the £40m they paid Monaco for Youri Tielemans last summer has already gone out in full, without any further instalments.
Then there’s the huge outlay on Leicester’s brand new training £100m ground, but the club’s hierarchy are sure it will be the envy of the rest of the Premier League. That, in the long term, will be a huge advantage when it comes to attracting – and developing – new talent at Leicester. But for the short term, it’s left a big hole in Rodgers’ transfer kitty.
Add to this, the fact that Leicester’s wage bill has increased exponentially in recent years. There were bumper new contracts for Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Nempalys Mendy and Luke Thomas in the summer. Before that, in June, Leicester shelled out for new deals for Morgan, Christian Fuchs and Eldin Jakupovic – the three of whom have a combined age of 105.
And finally – and perhaps most significantly – Leicester’s benevolent owners are feeling the pinch from the pandemic. King Power has invested heavily in Leicester since taking over 10 years ago this month. But their business is primarily in airport duty free shops. There can be few areas of the global economy that have been hit harder by coronavirus.
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